Bajrang Punia’s win took India’s medals tally at Tokyo 2020 to six. Mirabai Chanu’s silver in weightlifting, Lovlina Borgohain’s bronze in boxing, PV Sindhu’s bronze in badminton, Indian men’s hockey team’s bronze and Ravi Kumar Dahiya’s silver in wrestling are the other five.
It was India’s seventh Olympic wrestling medal and the second at Tokyo 2020.
Up against Niyazbekov, who beat him in the 2019 world championships semi-finals, Bajrang Punia took a measured approach in the initial stages.
However, it was Bajrang Punia who scored the first point through a passivity penalty on Niyazbekov. The Kazakh tried hard to erase the deficit quickly and even had Bajrang Punia on the backfoot but the Indian defended well to avert the danger.
Towards the end of the first period, Bajrang Punia even doubled his lead after pushing his opponent out of bounds.
Bajrang looked the more dominant wrestler of the two in the second period and halfway through, scored a two-point takedown to make the score 4-0. He kicked on from there and cruised to an 8-0 win with some fine aggressive wrestling.
With the win, Bajrang Punia emulated his mentor Yogeshwar Dutt, who won the bronze in men’s 60kg freestyle at London 2012.
Bajrang Punia’s bout also brought an end to India’s wrestling campaign at Tokyo, which saw India win a silver in men’s 57kg through Ravi Kumar Dahiya.
Earlier, Bajrang Punia beat Iran’s Morteza Ghiasi by fall in the quarter-finals and survived a close shave against Ernazar Akmataliev of Kyrgyzstan in the round of 16 to enter the semis.
The Indian wrestler, however, lost his semi-final bout against Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliyev and entered the bronze medal match.
Daulet Niyazbekov, who went down to Aliyev in the quarter-finals, defeated Senegal’s Adama Diatta by technical superiority in the repechage round to earn his medal shot against Bajrang.