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Wrestler Bajrang Punia nominated for Khel Ratna award

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Bajrang Punia.

New Delhi: Asian and Commonwealth Games gold-medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia was on Friday nominated for the country’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award.

His name was finalised by a 12-member selection committee on the opening day of a two-day meeting. The panel comprises the likes of Bhaichung Bhutia and MC Mary Kom among others.

“Bajrang has been nominated for the Khel Ratna award. His name was a unanimous choice,” a source close to the development told PTI.

The source also said that the 12-member panel may add another athlete for the top honour on Saturday besides finalising the names for the Arjuna and Dronacharya awards.

“I had the achievements to deserve this award. I have always said that awards should go to the most deserving ones,” Bajrang told PTI from Georgia where he is currently training.

Bajrang had last year won the gold medal in the 65-kg freestyle event at the Asian Games held in Jakarta.

He had also won the gold medal in the same category at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

He is also a two-time medallist at the world championships and a strong medal hope for India at next year’s Tokyo Olympics.

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Bajrang Punia bags gold at Ali Aliev tourney in Russia

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Bajrang Punia beat Viktor Rassadin of Russia 13-8 in the 65 kg final. Photo: Twitter

Dagestan (Russia): Continuing his winning spree, star Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia pocketed another gold medal at the Ali Aliev invitational tournament, here on Thursday.

Bajrang, currently the world No. 1 in the 65kg freestyle category, made a stunning comeback in the final affair to defeat local favourite Viktor Rassadin 13-8.

After the end of the first period, the 25-year-old Indian trailed 3-7 but took a 8-7 lead in the second affair before a failed challenge from the Russian extended Bajrang’s lead to 13-7.

Bajrang Punia is the World No. 1 in 65kg freestyle category.

Rassadin though received one point for a pushout to make it 8-13, but it was too late for him.

Earlier on April 23, Bajrang had won a gold in the same category, beating Kazakhstan’s Sayatbek Okassov 12-7 in the final of the Asian Wrestling Championships in China.

Bajrang will now head to the United States to participate in the ‘Beat the Streets’ competition at the Madison Square Garden, New York, on May 6.

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Wrestling

WFI recommends Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia for Khel Ratna

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Bajrang Punia (left) and Vinesh Phogat.

New Delhi: The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has recommended the names of Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.

Current number one wrestler Punia recently stamped his authority on Asia after he won the Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi’an, China.

Punia had last year won the gold medal in the 65-kg freestyle wrestling event at the Asian Games held in Jakarta. He defeated Japanese wrestler Takatani Daichi 11-8.

Before that, he had also won the gold medal in the same category at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. He overcame Kane Charig of Wales by Technical Superiority to clinch the gold.

On the other hand, Vinesh became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in both Commonwealth and Asian games.

At the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Vinesh won gold in women’s freestyle 50-kg event by defeating Canada’s Jessica MacDonald.

In the 2018 Asian Games, she created history as she became the first Indian woman wrestler to win gold in the games by beating Japan’s Yuki Irie in women’s 50-kg freestyle wrestling gold medal match.

She also became the first Indian athlete to be nominated for the prestigious Laureus World Sports Awards held in February 2019.

Apart from Vinesh and Bajrang, the WFI has recommended Rahul Aware, Harpreet Singh, Divya Kakran and Pooja Dhanda for the Arjuna Award while Virender Kumar, Sujeet Maan, Narendra Kumar and Vikram Kumar have been recommended for Dronacharya Award.

Bheem Singh and Jai Prakash have been recommended for the Dhyan Chand Award.

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Best-ever show by Indians at Asian Wrestling meet

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Harpreet Singh. Photo: Twitter

Xi’an (China): India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers finished their campaign on a high with two more medals — a silver through Harpreet Singh (82kg) and a bronze through Gyanender (60kg) — as the Asian Wrestling Championships came to an end here on Sunday.

With three silver and one bronze, India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers bettered their tally of two bronze from the last edition. It was also India’s best ever showing in Greco-Roman discipline so far at the Asian Championships.

After a strong show, Harpreet Singh had to settle for the second-best position to win his first silver after bagging three consecutive bronze from this meet.

In the final, Iran’s Saeid Morad Abdvali, a former world champion and Olympic medallist, never allowed the Indian to settle down, registering a comfortable 8-0 win by technical superiority.

Harpreet had begun his campaign with a 5-1 win over Burgo Beishaliev of Kyrgyzstan in the quarterfinal and continued to shine against China’s Haitao Qian in a commanding 10-1 victory in the semifinal.

“I gave my all but it wasn’t my day, especially against an opponent who is a former world champion and Olympic medallist. I am still happy to have bettered the colour of my medal from last year and hopefully will be able to bring more laurels to India in the future,” Harpreet said after the final.

In 60kg, Gyanender stamped his authority over Taipei’s Jui Chi Huang with a dazzling 9-0 victory to take the bronze. He had earlier beaten Ali Abed Alnaser Ali Abuseif of Jordan 9-1 in the quarters but lost his semifinal bout 0-9 to Islomjon Bakhramov of Uzbekistan. With the Uzbek making it to the final, Gyanender got a chance to contest the bronze medal play-off bout and made the most of it.

In 72kg, Yogesh missed the bronze as he went down 0-8 to Kyrgyzstan’s Ruslan Tsarev. The Indian had lost 0-9 in the quarterfinal to Hujun Zhang but with the Chinese reaching the final, Yogesh got a chance to fight for the bronze.

In 97kg, Hardeep failed to overcome the quarterfinal hurdle, while Ravinder could not make it past the qualification in the 67kg category.

The increase in the medal count this time has reflected the surging confidence levels of India’s Greco-Roman wrestlers after the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) sent them abroad for training. Even though Greco-Roman has not been India’s forte, the country has already taken giant strides to slowly becoming a powerhouse.

The 30-member Indian wrestling contingent thus had an impressive showing at this six-day continental event, winning a total of 1 gold, 6 silver and 9 bronze.

World No. 1 Bajrang Punia (65kg) opened India’s medal rush with a gold while the freestyle wrestlers added 3 silver and 4 bronze.

While Amit Dhankar (74kg), Parveen Rana (79kg) and Viky (92kg) had to settle for silver medals, Rahul Aware (61kg), Deepak Punia (86kg), Satyawart Kadian (97kg) and Sumit Malik (125kg) picked up the bronze medals.

Among the women grapplers, Commonwealth and Asian Games gold medallist Vinesh Phogat (53kg) and Rio Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg) had to be content with the bronze.

Divya Kakran (68kg) and Manju Kumari (59kg) brought home two more bronze to take the women’s wrestlers’ tally to four bronze.

In Greco-Roman, while Gurpreet Singh (77kg), Sunil Kumar (87kg) and Harpreet Singh (82kg) delivered silver medals, Gyanender (60kg) got the solitary bronze.

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