Bajrang continues fine run, Sushil humbled on return
With just over a month to go for the Wrestling World Championships, top Indian grapplers produced contrasting results in their respective competitions on Friday.
While two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar was comfortably defeated by Bekzod Abdurakhmonov of Uzbekistan at the Medved International tournament in Belarus, Bajrang Punia continued his fine form of the season with another gold medal-winning show at the Tbilisi Grand Prix in Georgia.
No stopping Bajrang
Heading into the competition as the defending champion, Punia showed his class as he manoeuvred past a strong opposition in Iran's Pejman Biabani 2-0 to claim the 65kg title.
The reigning Asian champion has enjoyed a phenomenal season so far winning two titles — the prestigious Ali Aliev Tournament and the Dan Kolov Tournament — apart from his Asian Championships gold.
The 25-year-old has been beaten just once this year, in a one-off bout against Yianni Diakomihalis of the USA in May.
He will be hoping to better his show at the Worlds by clinching the gold medal this time and thereby assuring himself of a place at Tokyo 2020.
From bad to worse
Meanwhile, things didn’t unfold as per plans for Sushil Kumar as he was pinned down by World No. 5 Abdurakhmonov in the 74kg quarter-finals in Minsk, Belarus.
The Indian, who was returning to the mat for the first time after his crushing opening round defeat at the 2018 Asian Games, lasted just 90 seconds before the Uzbek had him on the floor.
Abdurakhmonov, who won 2018 Asian Games gold, got hold of Sushil's right leg and earned four points. He then pushed the Indian out of bounds to add two more to his tally.
Another leg attack had Sushil in all sorts of trouble and soon Abdurakhmonov pinned Sushil to send the Indian packing home.
The result comes at a difficult time for Sushil who is yet to book his place in the Indian team for the World Championships. The trials for the 74kg category is set to be held later this month.