It was almost a reproduction from a giddy evening two years back. The mood was almost the same, the crowd waited in anticipation and Yogeshwar Dutt says the pressure was on.
Some slight alterations here – it was a gold medal match and the 31-year-old Yogeshwar did not have a swollen right eye. The bout though, was an exact replica. On came Yogeshwar, probed his opponent, Canada’s Jevon Balfour for the first 40 seconds, and then it was business as usual. Next, it was the fitele (the leg-twisting technique) as usual. Within a minute, Yogeshwar’s signature move was out. The same fitele had been paraded in front of the Excel Arena in London and it had fetched him an Olympic bronze. On Thursday, it came out at the SECC complex, providing him with a gold.
The technique, one in which Yogeshwar swiftly attacks his opponent’s lower body, head between thighs and a vice-like grip on the rival’s legs concluding in flipping his opponent like a rag doll, was employed in front of a sizable Indian contingent.
“It is something that is very close to my heart. I think it was one of the first techniques I learnt and it has stayed my favorite. I use it in crunch situations because it has never failed me till now. Also, this technique ensures that there is no chance of my opponent recovering to pin me,” he says.
19-year-old Balfour, in his first Commonwealth Games, could hardly be blamed for offering negligible resistance. Up against the vastly experienced Yogeshwar, wrestling in the 66 kg category for the first time in an international event, he was steamrolled 10-0, the bout finishing in under two minutes.
Immediately after the victory, Yogeshwar trooped into the stands to give a big hug to his mate, Sushil Kumar. The former had been the one leading the cheers for Yogeshwar as the points racked up. Both grapplers, wrestling in their new categories for the first time on the international stage, had got the job done and that too emphatically.
“I was quite confident of doing well. More so because in Italy last month I had won the gold medal in the 66 kg category. I beat the 2013 world champion (David Safarayan of Armenia) there and that made the difference. I knew I was ready to fight in this category and now the goal is the Asian Games,” he says.
Yogeshwar was hardly troubled as he swaggered his way through the rounds. He did not drop a single point, recording 11-0, 10-0 and another 10-0 victory on his way to the gold medal match. Finishing the tournament without conceding a single point, Yogeshwar says he could not have asked for a better preparatory tournament before the Asian Games.
Double for Phogats
Yogeshwar’s bulldozing run aside, it was a case of double delight for the Phogat family as Babita Kumari clinched the gold medal in the 55 kg women’s category. Having seen cousin Vinesh Phogat win the gold a couple of days earlier, Babita says there was definitely some familial pressure to bring about a similar result.
The younger sister of Olympian Geeta Phogat, Babita defeated Brittanee Laverdure of Canada 3-1 in the final. “After the results on Wednesday, there were a lot of mixed emotions in our camp. There was also some pressure because Indian wrestlers had lost four consecutive finals on Wednesday. Geeta had told me what to expect, I had fought the Canadian before and I am glad I gave India a gold,” she says. Having won a silver medal at the Delhi Games, bettering her performance this time was Babita’s top priority. “Ever since Geeta knew that she was not travelling to Glasgow, training was focused on me winning the gold medal. Two gold medals in the family is definitely a great thing,” she says.
India finished its campaign in the wrestling event with a silver and a bronze in the last two remaining categories. Geetika Jakhar was comprehensively defeated by Canadian opponent Danielle Lappage 0-7 in the final of the 63 kg class. Pawan Kumar won himself a bronze in the last category, beating Pakistan’s Inam Mohammed 6-6 (winner by points) in an enthralling clash in the 86 kg category.
With 13 medals in the bag and all its wrestlers having won a medal at the event, wrestling has turned out to be a bright spot for India with the five gold medals contributing handsomely to the tally.