8/19/2018 6:45:19 PM

Punia wins wrestling gold for India, Kumar bows out

Punia wins wrestling gold for India, Kumar bows out

Jakarta, Indonesia: Commonwealth champion Bajrang Punia gave India its first Asian Games gold in 65kg wrestling on Sunday after veteran Sushil Kumar suffered a shock first-round exit.

Punia, who won a silver at the 2014 edition in Incheon, battled past Japan's Daichi Takatini 11-8 in a hard-fought final bout.

Punia attacked from the word go to lead by 6-0 in the first minute of play, before the Japanese wrestler closed the gap through a series of counter attacks.

But the Indian, who lost to Takatini in the quaterfinals of the Asian Championships in March, prevailed to give his country the first gold of the 18th edition of the Asiad. 

"I have taken revenge of my Asian Championship loss and I dedicate my gold to late prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (who passed away on August 16)," an emotional Punia told reporters.

"There was no pressure on me to perform (after other Indians had lost their bouts). I am not the one who takes pressure, rather believe in concentrating on my performance," he added.

Punia won all his bouts on technical superiority but was tested in the final with a determined Takatini holding him till the last with a challenge.

"My next aim is the World Championships (in September). I have improved on my technique and game along the way and will try my best for India in the coming years."

Earlier Kumar, a two-time Olympic medallist and a medal favourite in the 74kg category, lost to Adam Batirov of Bahrain 3-5 despite vocal support from Indian fans.

Kumar's chance of making the repechage round also went up in smoke after Batirov lost his quarter-final to Japan's Yuhi Fujinami. If Batirov had made the final, Kumar would have had a chance to win bronze through repechage.

The 35-year-old was exempted from the Indian trials for the Asian Games, given his past results including winning his third Commonwealth gold in Australia's Gold Coast in April.

"I was also not expecting this result. I had prepared, but wins and losses are all part and parcel of sport," Kumar told reporters, saying he does not take criticism to heart.

"There is no loss of stamina at this age. And no pressure as well. I come far from all that. I enjoy sports and will continue to do that," he added.

It was Uzbekistan's Bekzod Abdurakhmonov, who ruled the 74kg category after pinning down Daniyar Kaisanov of Kazakhstan 3-2 to clinch gold.

Meanwhile Mongolia's Bekhbayar Erdenebat thrashed Kum Song Kang of North Korea 8-2 to claim the 57kg gold.

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