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Tokyo Olympics wrestling: Bajrang Punia goes down fighting, to vie for bronze now | Other Sports News

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Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia went down fighting valiantly to Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan in their 65kg category semifinal at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday (August 6). Bajrang lost 12-5 to the 2016 Rio Olympic medallist Aliyev. The Indian grappler will now battle for a bronze medal on Saturday (August 7).

True to his style, Bajrang put his tactical acumen and strength to good use in the second period to pin Iran’s Morteza Cheka Ghiasi for a semifinal berth in the men’s free-style 65kg event which took him closer to an Olympic medal on debut. Bajrang trailed the Iranian for a major part of the bout after being severely crippled by Ghiasi’s defensive tactics, especially the body-locks.

Twice Bajrang was put on activity clock and also left to defend his right leg when Ghiasi got hold of it. As the second period moved towards the final minute, Ghiasi looked like making a dangerous move when he got hold of Bajrang’s right leg and almost pulled off a take down.

But Bajrang not only wriggled out of that clutch, he locked the neck of Ghiasi and moved into a position from where he turned his rival, pushed him on the mat and held him with his immense strength to emerge victorious by fall. He will now fight it out with Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliev for a place in the gold medal bout. Aliev is three-time world champion and bronze-winner from the Rio Games.

Before this bout, a timely take-down move helped him beat Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev in his opening bout. Just before the end of the first period put the Indian ahead 3-1 but Akmataliev ran Bajrang close in the second period, getting two push-out points to level the scores.

Since Bajrang had the high scoring move, a two-pointer take down, he was declared winner on criteria. It was not the most clean and fluent victories that he is known for, but was just enough for Bajrang, who came into the Games after suffering a minor knee injury during a local Russian tournament.

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