Tokyo 2020: Ravi Dahiya fights back to enter gold medal bout

Ravi Kumar Dahiya
Ravi Kumar Dahiya, right, in action in his semifinal bout. Photo: AFP

Tokyo: Ravi Kumar Dahiya on Wednesday became only the second Indian wrestler to qualify for the title clash at the Olympic Games, when he sensationally turned around the 57kg semifinal bout by pinning Kazakhstan's Nurislam Sanayev but Deepak Punia was left to fight for bronze medal after he lost his semifinal, here on Wednesday.

Before Dahiya, a son of a farmer from Haryana, Sushil Kumar was the only Indian to make the gold medal bout at the 2012 Olympics in London where he had settled for a silver.

The fourth seeded Dahiya trailed 2-9 after Sanayev effected a few 'fitley' (leg lace) but as the clocked ticked away, Dahiya regrouped and got hold of his rival with a double leg attack that resulted in a 'victory by fall'.

"I had no business conceding that much lead against Sanayev. I am not happy with it," Dahiya told PTI when asked about his inspiring achievement.

It just shows the kind of standards the Indian from Nahri village in Haryana has set for himself.

"I have beaten Sanayev twice before, so I knew I can pull it off despite trailing by a huge margin. I was assured inside, but I should not have conceded lead and made it a close fight. That was pretty bad of me," he said.

"I still have some unfinished business to do. I came with a target here and that is not complete yet (winning gold)."

Ravi Kumar Dahiya
Ravi Kumar Dahiya in action in his opening round bout. Photo: AFP

In the final on Thursday, Dahiya will face reigning world champion Russian Zavur Uguev to whom he had lost in the 2019 World Championship semifinals.

Despite a huge deficit, the 23-year-old Dahiya did not panic, showing tremendous mental strength and dramatically turned the bout in his favour.

After the end of the first period, Dahiya had a 2-1 lead but Sanayev came prepared and attacked the Indian's left leg, got a good grip and turned him thrice to log six points in a jiffy.

Suddenly, Dahiya's lead was gone and he was staring at a defeat but his superior stamina and technical prowess was still at work. The remaining one minute was enough for him to turn the tide and he did it in style.

He got hold of Sanayev with a double leg attack and then gripped him tightly with the Kazakhstan wrestler's back on the mat and finished the bout with a mighty 'pin'.

A dominant Dahiya had won both his previous contests on technical superiority en route the final.

Dahiya outclassed Colombia's Tigreros Urbano (13-2) in his opener and then outwitted Bulgaria's Georgi Valentinov Vangelov (14-4).

Deepak Punia
Deepak Punia lost to David Taylor in the 86kg semifinals. Photo: AFP

While Dahiya was a live-wire on the mat, Deepak Punia (86kg) made good use of a favourable draw to reach the semifinals but lost to the formidable American David Morris Taylor. He will now fight for bronze on Thursday against the winner of the repechage round between Myles Amine and Ali Shabanau.

It was always going to be a Herculean task for Deepak to trouble the American, the 2018 world champion and the reigning Pan-American champion.

It was hardly a contest as Taylor effected one move after another to win by technical superiority in the first period itself.

Deepak could make only one move on counter attack but the American did not give the Indian any chance to convert that into points.

The 22-year-old Deepak had earlier got past Nigeria's Ekerekeme Agiomor, the African championship bronze medallist by technical superiority and then prevailed 6-3 over China's Zushen Lin in the quarterfinal.

Anshu Malik, on the other hand, lost her opening 57kg bout to European champion Irina Kurachikina but since the Belarus wrestler has reached the final, the 19-year old Indian has got a second chance to be in medal round.

She will now compete in the repechage round on Thursday and if she wins, she will also fight for bronze.

Dahiya will now be only the fifth Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal.

K D Jadhav had become India's first wrestler and also the first individual Olympic medallist when he won a bronze during the 1952 Helsinki Games.

After that, Sushil Kumar enhanced wrestling's profile by winning a bronze at 2008 Beijing Games and bettered the colour of the medal by claiming a historic silver in 2012 at London Olympics that made him India's only athlete with two individual Olympic medals for nine years.

The feat then has now been matched by shuttler PV Sindhu.

In the same 2012 Olympics, Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze.

Sakshi Malik became the first Indian woman wrestler to win an Olympic medal when she took a bronze in 2016 Rio Olympics.

This Tokyo edition could well be a watershed Olympics for Indian wrestling with both Vinesh Phogat and Bajrang Punia also in contention for a medal.

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