Experienced wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, India’s last realistic medal hope on the concluding day of the Olympics, crashed out after losing his qualification bout as the country’s biggest-ever contingent bowed out of the Games with a paltry medal haul of two.
Dutt, bronze medal winner in the previous Games in London four years ago, failed to sign off his Olympic career with a podium finish, losing in the opening round to Mongolian Ganzorigiina Mandakhnaran whose quarterfinal defeat dashed the Indian’s hopes of a second career bronze through repechage.
In 2012 India had secured their highest medal tally from a single Games -- six, without a gold -- and there were pre-Games projections by the Sports Authority of India that the tally will be doubled here.
But all those were dashed to the ground and India were saved the blushes at the fag end of their campaign by two women who were never highlighted as medal hopes - Sindhu who got the first-ever silver in badminton after Saina Nehwal’s bronze in London and Sakshi who secured the first-ever medal in women’s wrestling.
Expectations were high from Yogeshwar after he was touted as a strong medal prospect. But he looked a pale shadow of his previous gritty self in the 0-3 loss to Mandakhnaran in the qualification round bout.
After his loss in the qualification, Yogeshwar’s only hope of making the medal round depended on his Mongolian opponent reaching the gold medal bout. .
However, Mandakhnaran went down 0-6 to Russia’s Soslan Lyudvikovich Ramonov, the gold-medallist at the 2014 World Championship in Tashkent, in the quarterfinals to end the Indian grappler’s dream of signing off with a medal.
The seven-member Indian wrestling team thus finished its campaign with just a solitary bronze won by Sakshi Malik in the women’s 58kg category. The squad was originally eight-strong but Narsingh Yadav was ousted after being slapped with a doping ban by the Court of Arbitration for Sports.
Yogeshwar, competing in his fourth and last Olympics, hardly looked aggressive against the Mongolian, a gold-medallist from the 2010 Asian Games besides being a two-time World Championships bronze-winner.
The 33-year-old grappler from Haryana, had bagged a bronze in the 60kg category at the London Games and was expected to repeat the feat in the 65kg weight division.
The early elimination of Yogeshwar, following the loss of the Mongol to his tough Russian rival Romonov later in the quarters, spelt finish to his medal hopes.