Ravi Kumar defends Asian wrestling crown, Bajrang Punia pulls out of his title bout

Bajrang Punia was advised by his coach not to compete with a hurt elbow and risk aggravating it so close to the Olympics. India, however, won five medals on the day. 

By Naveen Peter
Picture by Kadir Caliskan

The highly anticipated Bajrang Punia vs Takuto Otoguro 65kg bout at the Asian Wrestling Championships proved to be anti-climatic with the Indian pulling out of the final due to an injury. Ravi Kumar Dahiya, meanwhile, retained his 57kg crown with a dominant win on the penultimate day of the meet in Almaty, Kazakhstan.

At the Baluan Sholak Palace of Culture and Sports arena, Bajrang and Takuto made their way into the 65kg freestyle final following some impressive performances in the early rounds. 

While Bajrang Punia blanked Yongseok Jeong of South Korea and Mongolia’s Bilguun Sarmandakh 3-0 and 7-0, respectively, Takuto Otoguro won his fights 13-0 against Nodir Rakhimov of Uzbekistan and 8-2 against Iran’s Morteza Hassanali Cheka.

Takuto Otoguro has beaten Bajrang Punia on the two occasions they have met. Photo: UWW
Picture by Kadir Caliskan

The two stars, however, couldn’t face off for the third time in their career as Bajrang Punia skipped the final, handing his opponent the win. The Indian wrestler later revealed that he ended up aggravating his elbow during the quarter-finals. 

“When I was pulling the Korean, the pain in my right elbow resurfaced. It’s the same elbow that I had injured during the World Championship,” the Tokyo-bound Bajrang told PTI. “The coaches advised that I must not take a risk so close to the Olympics, so I withdrew.”

Bajrang Punia, who settled for a silver, had lost his two previous bouts to Takuto Otoguro, once in the 2018 World Championships final and the other at last year’s Asian meet.

Earlier, Olympic-bound Ravi Kumar Dahiya had no such trouble as he dispatched Iran’s Alireza Sarlak 9-4 to retain his Asian crown. It was the Indian’s first outing in over a year,

In what was a fast-paced bout, the Indian stayed true to his style and managed a handful of double-legged attacks to pocket his points.

Karan, meanwhile, won the bronze medal in the 70kg weight division with a 3-1 win over South Korea’s Lee Seungbong and Narsingh Yadav beat Ahmed Al Gburi of Iraq 8-2 for his bronze in the 79kg non-Olympic category.

Satywart Kadian too was among medals, winning a bronze in the 97kg category with a 5-2 win over South Korea’s Minwon Seo.

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