Bajrang thrashed by Iran’s Rahman, to fight for bronze along with Aman at Asian Games


Team Udayavani, Oct 6, 2023, 11:49 AM IST

Hangzhou: Returning to competitive wrestling after a one-year gap, an under-pressure Bajrang Punia was routed 1-8 by Iran’s Rahman Amouzadkhalili in the semifinals but he stayed in contention for a bronze medal along with compatriot Aman Sehrawat, who was impressive despite his last-four stage defeat at the Asian Games, here on Friday.

An under-cooked Bajrang, who spent a major part of this year protesting against WFI chief Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, began with two easy wins but appeared clueless against the formidable Iranian.

Bajrang was criticised heavily for escaping the selection trials for the Asian Games. It was Vishal Kaliraman who won the trials but he was put as a stand-by in the men’s 65kg category. Sonam Malik (65kg) and Kiran (76kg) also lost their respective semifinals in the women’s competition to go out of gold medal race as four of the five Indians in action fell at the last-four stage.

Sonam and Kiran did not have to do much in the initial easy rounds but were exposed terribly when they faced better rivals in the semifinals.

Seeing an easy rival in Ronil Tubog for his opening bout would have eased Bajrang’s nerves and he began with a four-pointer to go on board. The Philippines wrestler looked too overwhelmed, and could not make a single move while Bajrang raced to a 8-0 lead in the first period.

It was a matter of one take-down move, and defending champion Bajrang found that soon to finish the bout by technical superiority.

Next up for him was Alibeg Alibegov, who was expected to put up a good fight but Bajrang was hardly troubled by the Bahrain wrestler. The Indian showed good defence to walk out a 4-0 winner.

Taking the mat for his toughest test of the day, Bajrang was thrashed 8-1 by the 2022 world champion and reigning Asian champion, who stunned the Indian with a four-pointer at the start of the bout.

The Iranian lifted and almost rolled Bajrang after getting hold of his right leg. The four-pointer had rattled Bajrang, while the Iranian stayed solid to defend his lead till the end of the first period.

Amouzadkhalili effected one more four-pointer at the start of the second period to double his lead. A desperate but flummoxed Bajrang tried two leg attacks but the Iranian defended not to concede.

Eventually, Bajrang earned one point but the Iranian just ran away with the bout.

In the men’s 57kg competition, Aman moved to the quarterfinals with an easy 6-1 win over Korea’s Kim Sunggwon.

Up against Iran’s Ebrahim Mahdi Khari, the U20 Asian Championships silver medallist, Aman found himself trailing 1-8 in quick time but the Chhtrasal stadium trainee turned it around in a sensational manner to win by technical superiority.

Aman reeled off 18 straight points, putting to work his immense strength and technical prowess to bamboozle the young Iranian.

Going into the second period 3-8, Aman employed a right-leg attack and tried to roll Khari, attempting a pin. The Iranian survived that move but there was no stopping Aman after that as he pulled away with one move after another.

However, he bumped into Japan’s Toshihiro Hasegawa, who raced to a 6-1 lead. It looked like Aman will effect a turnaround yet again as he reduced the deficit by taking four straight points.

It turned into a high-scoring bout with two wrestlers pulling off attacking moves, but eventually, the Japanese prevailed 12-10.

Sonam did not have to break much sweat in her first two rounds in which she outclassed Nepal’s Sushila Chand and Cambodia’s Noeurn Soeurn, winning both the bouts by technical superiority in less than a minute. Sonam was pinned by North Korea’s Hyongyong Mun, and the Indian could not score a single point against her.

She is now up against China’s Jia Long. In the 11-wrestler women’s 76kg category, Kiran got a bye in her opening round and got the better of Japan’s young wrestler Nodoka Yamomoto 3-0 in the last-eight clash, to sail into the semifinals.

In the next round, she was pinned by Kazakhstan’s Zhamila Bakbergenova. She will next fight it out with Mongolia’s Ariunjargal Ganbat.

Radhika (68kg) was the only Indian wrestler in action on Friday who could not reach the medal round.

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