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Tigers of the mat

Indian wrestlers lived upto the expectations by scooping 13 medals, including five gold, with star grapplers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt leading charge in yet another spectacular show at the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

London Olympics medallists Sushil (74kg) and Yogeshwar (men’s 65kg) were a class apart as they won gold in their respective weight categories with ease while Amit Kumar (57kg), Vinesh (women’s 48) and Babita Kumari (women’s 55kg) showed the quality of the young brigade in Indian wrestling talent reservoir.

Besides the five gold, India also won six silver and two bronze to run away with 13 medals, the maximum won by any country in the Glasgow Games, though Canada (12 medals) got more gold – seven. The gold count could have been more had not there been a drought on the second day of the wrestling competition when four Indians lost in their respective final bouts. Indian wrestlers started on strong note on day one by scooping three gold medals with Sushil leading from the front. Amit Kumar and Vinesh Phogat swelled the gold medal count though Rajeev Tomar had to settle for a bronze in men’s 125kg category.

Sushil (31), India’s only back-to-back Olympic medal winner with a bronze in Beijing 2008 and a silver at the 2012 London Games, asserted his class as he won his all four bouts of the day quite comfortably. In the gold-medal bout against Qamar Abbas of Pakistan, Sushil had an easy outing. Even before one could blink, the contest was over as the Indian pinned down his rival to clinch the gold in a 5-0 victory by fall verdict in a contest which lasted just one minute 47 seconds. Sushil was leading 8-0 on technical points when the contest ended.

However, it was Amit Kumar who began the golden day by defeating Ebikweminomo Welson of Nigeria 3-1 in his final bout. The 20-year-old fought a tough battle, two periods of three minutes each, but eventually managed to win the gold after he led 6-2 on technical points. Vinesh also had to face stiff challenge in her final bout against Yana Rattigan of England before emerging victorious with a 3-1 verdict in a contest which also lasted the full six minutes.

The Indian could only inch ahead of her opponent 11-8 on technical points at the end of the bout.In doing so, Vinesh emulated her older, more illustrious cousin Geeta who was the first Indian woman wrestler to win a Commonwealth gold (2010 Delhi). India, however, had to endure a tough second day as none of the four finalists could win a gold as they settled for four silver and one bronze.

Satyawart Kadian (men’s 97kg freestyle), Bajrang (men’s 61kg), Lalita Sehrawat (women’s 53kg) and Sakshi Malik (women’s 58kg) won a silver each while Navjot Kaur bagged a bronze in women’s 69kg.

But, India came back strongly on the third and concluding day to reassert their prowess on the wrestling arena. Yogeshwar and Babita won gold while Geetika Jhakar bagged a silver in women’s 63kg. Pawan Kumar then bagged a bronze in men’s 86kg.

Yogeshwar used his trademark ‘fitele’ (leg-twisting) technique to great effect in all the four bouts he had fought. In the final against Jevon Balfour of Canada, Yogeshwar was at his best as he did not allow his opponent any chance to attack him.

As soon as the bout began, Yogeshwar pounced on his opponent and got a chance to employ his leg-twisting technique but the Canadian resisted and the referee blew his whistle. Yogeshwar got just two technical points from that but the Indian soon got a chance to go for the kill and he did not let it go waste. Yogeshwar pinned down his opponent after a brief lull and grabbed both the legs of the Canadian and rolled himself over and over again on the mat before the referee stopped the bout after Dutt took a 10-0 technical point lead. Yogeshwar won the bout 4-0 on points.

It was, however, Babita who won the first gold for India on the concluding day by defeating Brittanee Laverdure of Canada in a dominant display. She led 5-0 after the first period of three minutes and then consolidated her position to win the bout. Babita grabbed the gold in the category which was won by her elder sister Geeta Phogat in 2010 in Delhi. Babita said her feat today compensated for the absence of her sister Geeta, who missed the Games due to injury.
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