Bajrang Punia opens India’s gold account at Asian Games 2018.

A dominating Bajrang Punia was one win away from clinching his maiden Asian Games gold medal but it was all over Sushil Kumar who crashed out of the mega sporting event after losing his first bout here on Sunday. Commonwealth Games gold medallist Bajrang, who got a bye in the first round, won all three bouts by technical superiority, asserting his class in the 65kg category.

He outclassed Uzbekistan’s Sirojiddin (13-3), Tajikistan’s Fayziev Abdulqosim (12-2) and Mongolia’s N Batmagnai Batchuluu (10-0) to storm into the gold medal bout. Sushil Kumar (74kg) and Sandeep Tomar (57kg) though crashed out even as Mausam Khatri (97kg) and Pawan Kumar’s (86kg) fate was still hanging in balance in their respective categories as they wait if they get repechage rounds. Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil, who was exempted from the Asiad trials, lost 3-5 to Bahrain’s Adam Batirov in the 74 kg category. He had come into the Games after losing his first bout in four years. The Indian led 2-1 after the first period with a takedown but the Bahraini made a strong comeback to silence the Indian fans. His defeat came as a shock for the Indian camp. Sushil himself was also surprised with his defeat.”I did not expect this. I did not have any big competition under my belt and that was the main reason for my defeat. But it’s part of the sport. I will train harder and come back,” said Sushil. “I was not passive. I tried,” he added.

The London Olympics silver medallist created two opportunities to score in the second period but could not convert them while Batirov did not miss his chances. He led 3-2 with a takedown and then pushed the Indian out for a win. For Sushil to remain in medal contention, Batirov needed to make the final but the Bahraini lost his quarterfinal bout 2-8 to Japan’s Yuhi Fujinami, resulting to the ouster of the Indian. In the 57kg freestyle category, Sandeep Tomar, who was the last wrestler to book a berth for the Games through trials, showed immense promise before crashing out in the quarterfinals. He won his second round about 12-8 against Turkmenistan’s Rustem Nazarov but was outwitted 9-15 by Iran’s Reza Atrinagharchi. The Iranian lost his semifinal and this led to Tomar crashing out of the competitions.

Tomar put up a brave fight and was locked 6-6 with his tactically superior Iranian rival. In the second, though, Reza just ran away with the bout with his big-scoring moves. Mausam Khatri was outplayed 0-8 in the 97 kg by Uzbekistan’s Magomed Ibragimov. Khatri remained passive throughout the bout and never made any attacking move. In the 86kg, Pawan Kumar made a rousing start by blanking Heng Vuthy of Cambodia 8-0 but later lost to reigning world champion Hassan Yazdani Charati of Iran by Technical Superiority. Yazdabi is the winner of the gold medal at Rio Olympics, apart from three World Cup gold medals.

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