The 500-odd spectators at the KD Jadhav stadium waited in anticipation as Narsingh Yadav jogged towards the mat from the dugout. The cheers only got louder as the only Indian wrestler to have qualified for Rio Olymipcs so far prepared for what was virtually a rematch of his 2015 World Championships semi-final against Mongolia’s Purvejav Unurbut.
With India’s two-time Olympic medallist and the most celebrated wrestler Sushil Kumar pulling out the Pro Wrestling League, the audience waited eagerly to watch the man who is expected to give the former a run for his money for the lone Olympic berth in the 74kg category. And from what they saw on Friday, they were not disappointed.
Narsingh and Purvejav were passive throughout the first half, and also received warning from the referee. Following a third warning to UP Warriors’ Purvejav, Narsingh was awarded a point. Everyone waited eagerly for one of them to blink first. But, none did.
The second half began on a similar note. Only this time Purvejav was awarded a point after a warning to Narsingh. The scoreline read 1-1. Both wrestlers waited for the other to make the first move. It was then that Narsingh sprang to life. Having done it once at the Las Vegas event, the Indian grabbed the Mongol wrestler’s leg and pinned him down. By the 37th second of the second half, Narsingh had taken a 7-0 lead.
The cheers returned and the stadium echoed with Narsingh’s name. With renewed vigour Narsingh tried to take down his opponent once more. But Purvejav quickly moved away and Narsingh slipped, leading to some anxious moments. Memories from the World Championships semi-final must have returned to Narsingh’s mind where, having led 4-3 until the last thirty seconds, he lost the bout as Purvejav scored the last point by taking Narsingh out of the ring with five seconds to go.
But this time Narsingh didn’t allow it to slip away. Releasing the danger, Nasingh sprang back to his feet and with this the Mongol let his best chance of a comeback slip away. With only a minute left, Narsingh led 7-1 and just to keep his opponent at bay he went for the attack once again. On the last move he once again grabbed Purvejav and eventually won 9-1, avenging his loss from September.
“Having lost to him at the World Championships was sad, but I am happy that I avenged it today. What is more satisfying is that I did it in front of my home crowd,” Narsingh said.
In Sushil’s absence the UP team went down 6-1 and Babita, the lone winner from their side, agreed that the double Olympic medallist’s presence would have lifted their spirits. But Narsingh is not bothered. “Koi player ho ya na ho, fark nahi padta. We are settled.” he said, even as those expecting a Sushil-Narsingh match-up were kept waiting.