Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Bajrang Punia – spurred on by cries of “Bharat Mata ki jai” from a boisterous crowd – crushed Canada’s Lachlan McNeil 9-2 and defend his Commonwealth Games wrestling gold in the men’s freestyle 65kg at the Coventry Arena.
Lachlan was put on the passivity clock and Bajrang effected a two-point takedown while using explosive strength to strike his opponent off balance. Pushing the Canadian outside the limits of the mat, Bajrang led 4-0 at the break.
McNeil got his first points with a double leg trap to have Punia face down on the mat. Incidentally, those were the only two points Bajrang lost enroute to the gold.
Later, Punia, featuring in his third Commonwealth Games, showed his authority by grabbing the Canadian by the leg on two consecutive occasions to walk him out of the mat.
Deepak Punia and Sakshi Malik, too, bagged gold medals in their respective weight categories. Deepak beat Muhammad Inam of Pakistan 3-0 in the men’s 86kg freestyle wrestling final, while Malik beat Canada’s Ana Godinez Gonzalez by fall to win the women’s freestyle 62 kg final.
Anshu settles for silver
Meanwhile, Anshu Malik won the silver medal in women’s freestyle 57kg as she went down fighting to Nigeria’s Odunayo Folasade Adekuoroye.
Anshu, the first Indian woman to win a silver at the World Wrestling Championships in 2021, looked to put her Tokyo disappointment behind as she tried the underhook against her taller opponent and stop the Nigerian from getting a leg-hold. Adekuoroye, who displayed an excellent defensive game, got the first two points by tying Anshu’s legs up.
Anshu, who had had an easy run until the final, took time to get used to her opponent, who also happened to be the only African to have ever entered the Worlds final.
Anshu, who won her first point owing to Adekuoroye’s passivity, conceded further as her opponent led with a double leg to go round the back. Anshu finally pocketed two points in the dying moments of the game with a frantic leg grab, but that wasn’t enough. A visibly crestfallen Anshu refused to get up from the mat after the bout.
Later, Divya Kakran beat Tiger Lily Cocker Lemalier by fall in just 26 seconds to win bronze medal in women’s 68kg.