Bajrang takes gold and number one rank in Rome

Rome, Mar 08 (PTI): Olympic-bound Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia pulled off a two-pointer in the last 30 seconds of the gold medal bout to defend his title at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event, a result that propelled him back to world number one rank.
Up against Mongolia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir, Bajrang was trailing 0-2 till the final moments of the 65kg final but managed to level the scores, 30 seconds from the final whistle.
Since the last scoring point came from the Indian, he was declared the winner on criteria on Sunday night.
Bajrang’s leg defence seemed to be a particularly improved aspect of his game in the one-year break, forced by the coronavirus pandemic.
The 27-year-old though said he needs to work more on his defence as he is eyeing a medal at the Tokyo Games.
“I found that my leg defence has improved compared to where it was before the break. I have got better but it still needs more work. I also need to be better on my attacking moves,” Bajrang told PTI.
Asked about his struggle in the final against the Mongolian, one of the three men’s Indian wrestlers to have qualified for the Tokyo Games said it indeed was tough.
“Look, the 65kg category is extremely competitive. The Mongolian has qualified for the Tokyo Games. He is not a weak opponent. All the wrestlers in this category have the same aim of doing well in Tokyo, so all are tough and we are all almost at same level,” he said.
“It is such a sport, that you go up and down. I am just glad that I am back to the mat and competing,” he said.
Bajrang will now be back in the national camp but wants to train outside before the Asian championship, scheduled to be held in Kazakhstan from April 9 to 11.
“I am looking for a training stint abroad. Let’s see if it happens because restrictions are back in Europe because of rising virus cases. Travelling is not easy these days. You have to fill a lot of forms, download apps, fill too much information.”
Bajrang was placed second in the rankings before the event and is now on top of the table in the 65kg category with 14 points.
The fresh rankings are based on results of only this tournament which means that gold-medallists get the top spot.
Vishal Kaliramana too impressed in the non-Olympic 70kg category by winning a bronze with a 5-1 win over Syrbaz Talgat from Kazakhstan.
Meanwhile, Narsingh Pancham Yadav, who recently made a return to competitive wrestling after a four-year doping ban, lost his bronze medal play-off 0-5 to Kazakhstan’s Daniyar Kaisanov.
The loss notwithstanding, he was impressive with his power and temperament.
India returned with seven medals from the first Ranking Series event in a year with Vinesh Phogat and Sarita Mor winning gold and a silver respectively in the women’s event.
Greco Roman wrestlers — Neeraj (63kg), Kuldeep Malik (72kg), Naveen (130kg) — bagged three bronze medals.

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