Bajrang Kumar’s entry into the SECC wrestling arena was greeted with bout of praise from the television commentator. The World Championship bronze medallist was due to fight David Tremblay of Canada for the gold medal in the 61 kg category.
The commentator elaborated on Bajrang’s dominating performance all through the earlier rounds, strongly hinting that this bout would end fairly quickly in favor of the Indian. Tremblay, the 26-year-old Canadian, was an also-ran at the London 2012 Olympics and wasn’t given much of a chance. The commentator believed that the Canadian, having missed his weight in the 57kg category, would at best pose a modest challenge to Bajrang.
Tremblay, a graduate in Leisure Science, the science of fun as he called it later. 1.35 minutes after the bout began it was over — 12-1 in the Canadian’s favor. Tremblay caught Bagrang in a swift leg clamp and then dragged him along the mat, Bajrang unable to release himself from the hold and only managed to writhe about.
The Canadian, said later that he did not have an idea that Bajrang was a World Championship medallist – the Canadian press attaché whispering the particular detail in his ear during the course of a television interview. Having entered the 61 kg category only because he weighed in 750 grams heavier on Tuesday, Tremblay’s victory was clinical. “I have never lost a match when I use the leg clamp. Once my opponent is on the floor, its done. I never expected Bajrang to give me such a big opening early on, once I saw what he was doing, I knew I had this medal locked up,” said Tremblay.
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While Tuesday had been all about India’s all-conquering domination in wrestling, Wednesday was the opposite. Lalita Sehrawat, lost her gold medal match in the women’s 53-kg category within 35 seconds, Nigeria’s Odunayo Adekuoroye whipping the Haryana girl’s legs from under her, before pinning her down with utmost precision.
It only got worse for India. Sakshi Malik, widely tipped to take home the gold in the 58-kg event was hardly given a second to breath as another Nigerian, Aminat Adeniyi, pounced on her almost as soon as the referee put the whistle to his lips. Once again, a mistake allowed Adeniyi to dive for Malik’s legs. A 10-0 victory later, Malik sulked off, shaking her head repeatedly, later saying that she made the mistake of failing to guard her legs properly. It cost her a gold medal.
Perhaps the closest bout was the last one. Satyawart Kadian was up against Arjun Gill, a Canadian of Indian origin in the final of the 97 kg event. The results favored Kadian because he had won his last bout against Gill 1-5 at Sassari in Italy last month.
In an clash of attrition, both grapplers never really tried to attack. Kadian ended the first round with 2-0 advantage but a brilliant fightback by the 22-year-old Gill in the second had the match at 4-4 in the last ten seconds. A jury decision gave Gill victory, handing India its fourth straight loss within an hour.
A win in the repechage round for Navjot Kaur was India’s only victory on a day that promised almost an encore of Tuesday but delivered a rather chastening verdict.
A common theme running through all the four defeats was the lack of defense, especially when it came to the legs. Bajrang conceded as much after his bout saying his leg defense has never been his greatest strength. “I should have defended better. I think I opened up very soon and exposed my legs right at the beginning,” he said. All the women wrestlers, were guilty of being a little too enthusiastic and often their eagerness to get a hold on their opponents giving them just an extra yard of space, proving fatal in the end.
Sakshi Malik conceded that the pressure of playing a gold medal match had perhaps got to her at the last moment.
“Its not like we haven’t played finals. But this being my first Commonwealth Games experience, I guess it definitely played a part,” she said. The Indian wrestling contingent has now picked up nine medals and will be hoping to return to gold medal wining ways when London 2012 bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt is slated to wrestle tomorrow along with Pawan Kumar, Geetika Jakhar and Babita Kumari.