Bajrang Punia Handed Controversial Defeat; Qualifies for Olympics

Bajrang Punia and Ravi Kumar have both qualified for the Olympics but lost their semi-final bouts.

3 min read
Bajrang Punia reacts after his opponent is awarded the semi-final match.

World number one and India’s biggest medal hope at the World Championships, Bajrang Punia was handed a controversial defeat in the semi-finals of the 65 kg event on Day 6 of the tournament.

Competing against home wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, Bajrang was declared the loser of the semi-final bout despite the match ending on a 9-9 scoreline at the end of 6 minutes of regulation time.

Niyazbekov was declared the winner on the basis of the four points he had earned for one single manoeuvre in the first period of the bout, which in fact was also a controversial decision by the referees.

Bajrang, however, has qualified for the Tokyo Olympics by virtue of reaching the semi-final. In fact, Ravi Kumar Dahiya too put up a spirited show and booked a 57 kg berth for India in Tokyo.

Both wrestlers will fight for the bronze medal tomorrow.


Bajrang’s S/F Ended 9-9

Bajrang was the title favourite in the 65 kg event and came into the tournament having won a string of gold medals this summer. In the semi-final he was up against 30-year-old Niyazbekov and even though the Kazakh wrestler took the early lead, Bajrang was always in the match.

Apart from the four points that were awarded on the contentious move that was also challenged by Bajrang and cost him an extra point for losing the review, the referee was also seen to giving ample time to a tiring Niyazbekov to catch his breath during the point. In fact, trice in the match, Bajrang’s opponent should have been handed a caution but got away without one.

Bajrang's frustrated coach Shako Banitidis kicked the coach's block in anger after the result was declared.

“I challenged it (the four point manoeuvre) and they should have given at least two points to Bajrang for that hold,” said coach Benitidis.

Several times, Bajrang raised his hands in frustration but to no avail.

Earlier during the day, Bajrang steam-rolled past his opponents with ease on his way to the semis. He did not have to work much in going past Poland's Krzysztof Bienkowski in the opening round and won it 9-2.

David Habat of Slovakia was beaten 3-0 in the pre-quarterfinals and then Korea's Jong Choi Son was taken out 8-1.

Ravi Kumar Puts Up Spirited Show

In an incredible debut at the World Championships, Ravi Kumar Dahiya took down a few big names before ultimately losing the semi-final to the reigning World Champion.

Ravi lost 4-6 to Zaur Uguev of Russia and will also fight for the bronze on Friday afternoon.

Ravi also made it to the Tokyo Olympics in the 57kg after stunning Arsen Harutunyan, the 61kg European champion from Armenia and 2017 world champion and world number three Yuki Takahashi of Japan. He was awarded two bouts by technical superiority.

In a remarkable turnaround, he erased a six-point deficit to log 17 points in a row with his counter-attack to shock Arsen Harutunyan, the European champion, in the second round.

What was impressive about Ravi was that despite trailing 0-6, he kept his cool and stayed in the bout and eventually found a way to tear apart the defence of the Armenian.

There was a bit of drama towards the end when Armenia challenged the bout-finishing point. After much delay and watching replays, Ravi was declared the winner.


Sakshi and Divya Lose Openers

In the women's competition, there was no end to the woes of Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Maik, who lost her opening round 7-10 to Nigeria's Aminat Adeniyi.

Sakshi waited too long to attack while her powerful opponent moved quickly and she is now out of the championship since the Nigerian later lost her quarterfinal bout.

In the 68kg, Divya Kakran could not do much against reigning Olympic champion Sara Dosho from Japan, losing the bout 0-2.

Dosho later lost her quarterfinal bout, closing repechage doors on Divya.

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