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Bajrang storms back to win gold; Rana silver

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 24-04-2019 HT Correspondent

NEW DELHI, April 24 -- Bajrang Punia left it late before making a stunning comeback to beat Kazakhstan's Sayatbek Okassov in the 65kg freestyle final for his second gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi'an, China on Tuesday.

With just over a minute left on the clock, Bajrang was trailing 2-7 against the Asian Games bronze medallist, his title hopes fading.

It was here that Bajrang showed urgency and launched an all-out attack. A sharp leg attack saw Bajrang bring down Sayatbek for a two point take-down.

He then got a firm hold of Sayatbek and flipped him thrice. At the end, the Kazakh was left stunned with little time to reverse the 12-7 scoreline.

This was Bajrang's fifth medal in the Asian Championships. He had won the 65kg title at home in 2017 but could manage only bronze last year in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. India won two more medals on the opening day with Parveen Rana winning silver in 79kg and Satyawart Kadian bronze in 97kg. Rajneesh bowed out in the 70kg first round, losing to Yones Aliakbar Emamichoghaei of Iran on technical superiority.

All eyes were on India's world No 1, who cruised through his bouts till the final. The Asian Games champion had conceded just one point in his previous three bouts. He opened with a technical superiority win over Charles Fern of Sri Lanka before thrashing Peyman Biabani of Iran 6-0. Bajrang won the semifinal against Uzbekistan's Sirojiddin Khasanov 12-1.

In the final, though, Bajrang met a strong contender in Sayatbek, who had done his homework on the Indian. Leg defence has been an area of concern, and Bajrang had spoken of tightening his technique before the tournament. Japanese teenager Takuto Otaguro had repeatedly attacked Bajrang's leg to beat him 16-9 in the World Championships final last year. Since then Bajrang has been working on his leg defence with personal coach Shako Bentinidis of Georgia.

However, he still seems to have a lot of ground to cover in the area. Sayatbek again exposed his weakness, attacking Bajrang's legs to score right from the start. The Kazakh was up 4-0 within a minute and Bajrang was left to play catch up. He tried to score on counter but Sayatbek wriggled out of his clutches. The Kazakh dominated the first period and Bajrang could score just two points as he fell 2-5 behind.

At the start of the second period, Sayatbek again grabbed two points to lead 7-2, taking a firm grip of the bout. With time running out, Bajrang launched a desperate attack and succeeded in turning the tables.

"I've been training to adopt new techniques. I am happy I could implement those and win gold here." Bajrang said. "There is lot to work on and my focus is to prepare for the World Championships, which is an Olympic qualifier."

In the 79 kg final, Parveen Rana lost to Bahman Mohammad Teymouri of Iran 0-3. Rana beat Kazakhstan's Galymzhan Usserbayev 3-2 in the semifinal.

In the title contest, Parveen found Teymouri's defence too strong to breach. Maintaining a safe distance throughout, the Iranian did not give Rana an opportunity to attack his legs.

Teymouri, the world championships bronze medallist, was quick to push Rana off the mat to get two points. He scored another point before closing shop, evading Rana's counter with speed and finesse.

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