Indian wrestler Jitender Kumar repaid the trust shown in him by the selectors to win a silver medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships which concluded in New Delhi on Sunday.
The 27-year-old Indian wrestler was in fine form throughout the day to walk into the gold medal bout without much trouble.
But in the final, he came up short against the defending champion Kaisanov Daniyar of Kazakhstan and had to settle for a silver after a 1-3 loss in the 74kg freestyle category.
A silver medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships, however, was enough for Jitender Kumar to prove his worth to make the Indian team for the Asian Olympic qualifiers next month.
Chosen ahead of his much-decorated compatriot Sushil Kumar, the Asian Wrestling Championships were make-or-break for Jitender Kumar. The Haryana grappler had to ensure a medal finish if he wished to skip a trial against the two-time Olympic medallist.
Though making the final in New Delhi guaranteed Jitender Kumar his participation at the continental Olympic qualifiers, a win over Daniyar would have gone a long way in helping him cement his credentials.
But it was not to be as the bronze medallist at the 2019 World Championships, Daniyar, used all his experience to pip the Indian wrestler in what a cagey final.
With both the wrestlers shying away from taking the initiative, it took the referee’s intervention for Daniyar to initiate the first attack of the final.
Put on the passivity clock, the Kazakh cramped Jitender Kumar close to the passive zone before pulling off a fine single-leg attack to inflict a takedown for the opening points.
Later, though the Jitender Kumar cut the deficit by a point by pushing Daniyar out of bounds, the Indian wrestler couldn’t find enough to win more points and ended up losing his second-straight tie to the Kazakh this season. Daniyar had earlier beaten Jitender Kumar at the Matteo Pellicone Memorial meet in Rome.
Deepak Punia, Rahul Aware take bronze
The day also saw two of India’s accomplished grapplers Deepak Punia (86kg FS) and Rahul Aware (61kg FS) settle for a bronze medal in their respective weight categories at the KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium on Sunday.
Falling at the semi-final hurdle in the morning session, the silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships, Deepak Punia, made up for the slip up by outclassing Iraq’s Al Obaidi Issa Abdulsalam Abdulwahhab 10-0 to ensure a podium finish.
Meanwhile, Rahul Aware beat Majid Almas Dastan of Iran 5-2 for his bronze medal as India wrapped up a memorable outing with five gold, six silver and nine bronze medals at the Asian Wrestling Championships.