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Live Blog – Commonwealth Games, Day 9
Teenaged wrestler Divya Kakran, who claimed medals at the Asian and Commonwealth Wrestling Championships last year, has marked her first appearance at the Commonwealth Games by winning bronze in the women’s 68kg freestyle event.
Bajrang, who won a 61kg silver four years ago at the Glasgow Games, turned in an utterly dominating performance against Kane Charig of Wales, whom he defeated 10-0 in just over two minutes.
Bajrang had stormed into the final of the men’s freestyle 65kg event with wins over New Zealand’s Brahm Richards, Nigeria’s Amas Daniel and Canada’s Vincent de Marinis. In the showdown with Charig, the 24-year-old wrapped up gold inside the first round.
Bajrang won the highest accolade for Indian wrestling last year, a 65kg freestyle gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship in New Delhi, for which he was crowned Wrestler of the Year at the third Mahindra Scorpio Times of India Awards (TOISA) in February. On his way to the summit, Bajrang had beaten the previous Asian Championship gold-medalist Meisam Nassiri 7-5 in the quarter-finals.
His second gold of the year came at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games in Ashgabat, where he beat Daichi Takatani of Japan, and there was also a silver medal at the Under-23 World Wrestling Championship – his first at world level in an Olympic weight category.
In the other gold medal fight, Pooja won silver in the women’s 57kg freestyle after losing her final match against Olympic bronze medalist and two-time World Championship medalist Odunayo Adekuoroye of Nigeria.
Pooja was at her fighting best during her bout as she had almost turned it around in the last 30 seconds. Trailing 1-6, Dhanda almost got the job done with a near pinfall but Odunayo was lucky to survive.
The 24-year-old from Gudana in Haryana’s Hisar district had earlier turned down an offer to play three-time CWG medalist Babita Kumari in Hindi cinema’s all-time grosser Dangal to stay focused on her wrestling career.
Odunayo, also the defending CWG champion in the 53kg, started her sporting career as a judoka but switched to wrestling in 2009 on the advice of Asian champion Kripa Shankar Bishnoi.
Entering the competition on Friday, Pooja beat Canada’s Emily Schaefer, New Zealand’s Ana Moceyawa and then Cameroon’s Joseph Essombe Tiako in the semi-finals 11-5 before losing to two-time World Championship medalist and the defending CWG champion in the 53kg Odunayo in the final.
Pooja had sealed her passage to the CWG when she defeated Geeta Phogat during the trials for the 57kg category. Today’s medal is reward for her perseverance after she underwent two surgeries for a tear to her anterior cruciate ligament during a training camp in Lucknow three years ago. During the Pro Wrestling League, Pooja had defeated Odunayo and World Championships silver medal-winner Marwa Amri.
Divya beat Cameroon’s Alakame Anzong in her first match and then lost to Canada’s Danielle Lappage to enter the semi-finals, where she was beaten by Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu on technical superiority. Fighting a wrestler ten years her senior and with the experience of two Olympics and two Commonwealth Games, the 19-year-old was no easy feat, and the result was not a surprise.
This left Divya to contest the bronze-medal playoff, and here she emulated fellow female wrestler Kiran Bishnoi from a day earlier by adding to India’s medal tally.
In the bronze medal fight, Divya outplayed Sherin Sultana of Bangladesh in the play-off match as it took her just 36 seconds to wind things up. Divya was leading 5-0 and succeeded with a pinfall.
Divya’s story is nothing short of something out of a film script. The young grappler from Delhi’s Gokulpur neighbourhood honed her skills and enhanced her reputation playing across north India’s dangals where she beat boy after boy while her father Suraj helped earn money by selling langots to spectators.
Last year, her perseverance paid off when she became the third Indian wrestler, after Vinesh Phogat and Sakshi Malik, to win silver at the Asian Wrestling Champions. As the year closed, Kiran won gold at the Commonwealth Wrestling Champions in South Africa. Now she is a CWG medalist. For a young wrestler who had to stay away from the sport for several months on account of a kidney stone, this medal is a massive step forward.