India’s ace grappler Bajrang Punia scripted a monumental comeback to register a historic win in the ongoing World Wrestling Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan on Friday. After going 0-6 down, Bajrang came back in style to beat the Mongolian wrestler Tulga Ochiryn 8-7 to clinch the Bronze medal in the men’s freestyle 65 kg category. This was Bajrang’s third medal at the World Championships, he claimed a silver last year.
Ochir started strong, taking two points in the first 15 seconds and then four more with a chest throw. Bajrang responded with a counter and earned two points and at the end of the first period, the score was 6-2 in the Mongolian’s favour. However, Bajrang came out all guns blazing in the second period. He managed to get Ochir with a leg shot and collected six successive points to lead 8-6. Ochir got another point for step out but that was all he could manage.
The 25-year-old grappler had already sealed his qualification to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics earlier in the event. He faced a controversial defeat in the semifinal on Thursday against home favourite Daulet Niyazbekov. There were widespread allegations that the officials blatantly favoured the home wrestler (from Kazakhstan) over Bajrang.
In the controversial semifinal, Bajrang’s dreams of finishing on the top step of the podium came crashing down.
On Wednesday, Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 games. Phogat booked herself a place in the women’s 53-kg freestyle category. She also has two back-to-back gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and an Asian Games (2018) gold against her name.