CHENNAI: In the absence of Iranian superstar Hassan Yazdani, Indian wrestler Deepak Punia (86kg) was one of the title favourites at the Asian Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. Top seed Azamat Dauletbekov from Kazakhstan was standing between him and his first-ever gold at the continental event.
As expected, the two-faced each other in the final on Sunday with the Kazakh wrestler once again coming on top like their previous meeting at the 2019 Matteo Pellicone tournament in Italy. The loss meant the 2019 Worlds silver medallist, seeded second, yet again failed to cross the final hurdle.
Meanwhile, Viky grabbed bronze in 92kg as India signed off with 17 medals from the championships (7 in men’s freestyle, 5 each in women’s wrestling and Greco-Roman style). Ravi Dahiya (57kg) turned out to be the only gold medallist for India.
“He had a bout of fever just before leaving for Mongolia. But that cannot be used as an excuse for the loss in the final. He should have won it but his feet were not moving properly and they were not in sync with his arms making him less effective both in attack and defence,” coach Virender Singh, who trains Deepak, told this daily.
Deepak has won two bronze in 92kg this year since his fifth-place finish at the Tokyo Games where he took part in 86kg. The medal (in his 86kg) was his fourth (1 silver in 2021, 1 bronze each in 2020 and 2019) at the Asian Championships.
Earlier, the 22-year-old wrestler from Haryana stormed into the final without conceding a point. He first blanked Mohsen Mostafavi of Iran 6-0 in the quarterfinal before downing Korean Gwanuk Kim 5-0 in the semifinal. However, Dauletbekov did not let the Indian play his aggressive game in the summit clash. The Kazakh made effective counter-attacking moves to build on the lead and eventually won by a comfortable 6-1 margin.
With marquee events like the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games lined up this year, Deepak has to immediately work on his flaws to get ready for bigger challenges lying ahead. “Aggression is his strength but he failed to breach the Kazakh wrestler’s defence. That speed and agility were missing, especially in the final. Once he is back, we will sit together to work on those aspects,” added the coach.
Viky also started with a narrow 4-3 win over Mirlan Chynybekov of Kazakhstan but lost the semifinal to Mongolian opponent Orgilokh Dagvadorj 11-0 by technical superiority. He then staved off a stiff challenge from Uzbek grappler Ajiniyaz Saparniyazov to win the bronze medal playoff 5-3. Mangal Kadyan (61kg) lost the bronze medal match 4-6 to Ulukbek Zholdoshbekov of Kazakhstan.