Wrestlers Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya began the Olympics year on an emphatic note, clinching gold medals in their respective categories of the Rome Ranking Series.
Punia defeated Jordan Oliver of the USA in a come-from-behind victory in the 65-kg category, while Dahiya trumped Kazakhstan’s Nurbolat Abdualiyev 12-2 in a one-sided affair in the 61-kg bracket.
However, there was disappointment for Jitender and Deepak Punia, who were knocked out earlier in the day. Deepak, the current junior world champion and winner of a silver medal at last year’s Senior World Championships took a resounding 1-11 loss to Adrian Ramos of Puerto Rico. Jitender beat Ukraine’s Denys Pavlov 10-1 in the first round before losing 0-4 to Turkey’s Soner Demirtas in the quarters.
But Bajrang and Ravi ensured the Indian flag waved high. Bajrang found the going challenging in the first round against Zain Allen Retherford of the USA but he emerged victorious by a close 5-4 margin. In the quarterfinal, he claimed a convinving win over Joseph Christopher, whom he beat Mc Kenna 4-2, before getting the better of Vasyl Shuptar of Ukraine 6-4 in the semi-finals.
His demolition of Oliver was so convincing that the American wrestler took to twitter to congratulate his Indian counter. “Wasnt my night but I got a lot of work to do to be where I want to be! Hats off to @BajrangPunia dude is heck of a competitor! Until next time my friend,” he tweeted.
Dahiya, 23, overcame Moldova’s Alexaandru Chirtoaca and Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan with impressive wins before defeating Abdualiyev in the summit clash.