2019 World Wrestling Championships: How Bajrang Punia lost in the semi-finals
One of the major setbacks for India came as World no. 1 Bajrang Punia was stalled by a heartbreaking defeat in the men's 65kg freestyle category.
It was a day of a few hits and big misses for India at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in Nur Sultan, Kazakhstan on Thursday. Despite winning Olympics berths, Bajrang Punia and Ravi Kumar Dahiya missed out on their entry to the finals of the tournament, as both crashed out in their sem-final ties.
One of the major setbacks for India came as World no. 1 Bajrang Punia, who was on his journey to end his gold medal drought, was stalled by a heartbreaking defeat in the men's 65kg freestyle category.
Bajrang, who was headed into World Championships as the favourite, was riding on a wave of success as he struck gold medals in all the tournaments he participated in 2019.
The top-seeded kicked off his campaign with a 9-2 win over Poland’s Krzysztof Bienkowski. In the quarter-finals, the ace Indian eased past North Korea's Jong Choi Son 8-1 to secure an Olympic quota in the men's 65kg event.
However, Bajrang's dreams came crashing down in the semi-final against Kazak wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov. The 25-yr-old Indian started off the encounter on backfoot giving Niyazbekov a 0-2 lead which further extended when the Kazak wrestler came up with a 4-point throw at the start of the 2nd period. The Indian corner challenged the referee's decision to award the 4-point hold which seemed to be initiated by Bajrang. The Indian, however, lost the challenge and Niyazbekov extended his lead to 2-7.
Bajrang’s frustrated coach Shako Banitidis even kicked the coach’s block in anger, protesting the partisan officiating the bout.
With the clock ticking down, Bajrang took an aggressive approach and to pressurise the Kazak wrestler. Just when it looked Bajrang would do enough to seal a place in the final, the bout ended at 9-9 and Niyazbekov won by criteria.
The result came down to the 4-point hold that went in favour of Daulet Niyazbekov at the start of the second period.
Article 31 of United World Wrestling rulebook states, in case of a tie by points, the winner will be declared by successively considering: the highest value of holds; the least amount of cautions; the last technical point(s) scored.
Despite Bajrang scoring the last 2 points, Niyazbekov sealed the final berth due to the 4-point hold.
Bajrang was left frustrated by questionable refereeing throughout the semi-final bout. In the controversial bout, the referee even gave extra time to Niyazbekov to catch his breath and he was not given warning at least thrice. Bajrang could even be seen signalling to the referees midway during the 2nd period.
Wrestlers, journalists and sports fans took to Twitter expressing their frustration over biased referring:
Bajrang will now fight for the bronze medal in the 65kg category on Friday. Ravi Kumar came up with impressive showings to seal an Olympic quota in the men's 57kg freestyle category. Ravi, though, lost to world champion Zaur Uguev 4-6 in the 57kg freestyle event semi-finals and he will also battle for bronze.