Greco-Roman Indian wrestler Sunil Kumar dished out a top show on the opening day of the Asian Wrestling Championships 2020 to break a 27-year-old gold medal drought in the category by winning the top prize in the 87kg division on Tuesday.
In front of a small, yet noisy crowd at the KD Jadhav Stadium in New Delhi, the Indian wrestler was in complete control of the bout as he beat Kyrgyzstan’s Azat Salidinov to become only the third from the country and the first since Pappu Yadav in 1993 to claim the gold medal at the Asian meet.
Sunil Kumar goes on the offence
Sunil Kumar, who raced his way into the summit tie on the back of comfortable wins in the initial rounds, began on an aggressive note, forcing the referee to warn the Kyrgyz grappler for passivity time and again.
The aggression soon bore fruits as Salidinov was penalised for passivity and Sunil Kumar made the most of the advantageous position as a gut wrench was soon followed by a flip over his shoulders for two more points.
In the second round though, Salidinov worked on his game and came up with a better plan to tackle the Indian. While Sunil Kumar continued his aggressive approach, the Kyrgyz was smart to avoid any damage as he used the mat to keep the bout moving.
His tactic, though, didn’t help him earn any points while the Indian wrestler added two more by pushing his opponent out of bounds to take the match away from Salidinov - 5-0 the final score in the Indian's favour.
Arjun Halakurki adds to the medals tally
While Sunil Kumar was on top of his game,Arjun Halakurki failed to get past Pouya Mohammad of Iran in the semi-final of his 55kg Greco-Roman category.
But the Indian wrestler didn’t let that disappointment bother him much as he came back strong in the evening session to take home the bronze medal with a fine 7-4 win over Donghyeok Won of South Korea.
Earlier in the day, one of India’s biggest medal hopes in the Greco-Roman category, Sajan failed to live up to the billing, losing his Last 16 tie.
Pitted against the 2019 U-23 Asian Champion Renat Iliazuulu of Kyrgyzstan, the Indian wrestler barely looked in control of his bout in the 77kg category, losing to the better grappler 6-9.
Meanwhile, Sachin Rana too couldn’t go the distance as he lost out in the quarter-finals of the 63kg category.
Though the Indian wrestler dominated his opening round fight against Elmurat Tasmuradov of Kyrgyzstan, winning 8-0, he couldn’t get past Yernur Fidakhmetov of Kazakhstan in the following round, losing out 3-6.
Where to watch Asian Wrestling Championships 2020
Finals of all the events of the Asian Wrestling Championships will be broadcast on Star Sports First and fans can also live stream the tournament on Hotstar and wrestlingtv.in.