Indian grappler Ravi Kumar Dahiya gave his country’s medal pursuit an unexpected boost when he assured them of at least a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics when he stormed into the men’s 57kg freestyle final with a ‘victory by fall’ over Kazakhstan’s Nurislam Sanayev in the semifinal on Wednesday.
Dahiya became only the second Indian wrestler in history after Sushil Kumar - who had ended up with a silver in London 2012 - to make it to the title round at the quadrennial showpiece.
It was a profitable day for Indians on the mat as compatriot Deepak Punia overcame China’s Zushen Lin 6-3 on points to advance to the semi-final and also put himself in line for a medal. Punia, however, failed to emulate his compatriot when he went down David Morris Taylor of the USA in the semi-final - though he is still in line for a bronze medal.
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Taylor comprehensively overpowered Punia in the semis, winning by a 10-0 margin inside the first period. It was always a tough call for Punia to trouble the American, a 2018 world champion and the reigning Pan-American champion. Both Dahiya’s final and Punia’s bronze play-offs are scheduled on Thursday.
Earlier, Dahiya had won his opening-round bout by technical superiority against Colombia’s Oscar Tigreros to secure a quarterfinal spot. Competing in the Round-of-16 bout against the Colombian wrestler, the 23-year-old Dahiya, who is making his Olympic debut, showed no nerves as he dominated the bout to win by technical superiority (13-2).
Dahiya landed attack after attack and went 13-2 up, winning the bout by technical superiority with minutes to spare. In wrestling, building up a 10-point lead over the opponent results in a victory by technical superiority.
Punia in the 86 kg class showed no signs of the niggle that had forced him to pull out of the Poland Open Ranking Series in Warsaw in June, as he defeated Nigeria’s Ekerekeme Agiomor on technical superiority to secure a quarterfinal berth.
He got his Olympic campaign to a fine start as he was in control from the start of the bout and hardly ever allowed his Nigerian opponent any room to manoeuvre his moves, finally winning with a 12-1 on technical superiority.