New Delhi: India completed its best-ever medal haul at the Asian Wrestling Championships in the Greco-Roman category, riding on bronze medals from Ashu (67kg), Aditya Kundu (72kg), and Hardeep (97kg) here on the second day of the competition.
All of India’s medals on Wednesday came via repechage, taking the total medal tally of hosts to five. Sunil Kumar (87kg) and Arjun Halakurki (55kg) had won gold and bronze respectively a day earlier. India’s previous best performance in Greco-Roman was the four-medal haul (three silver, one bronze) at the 2019 edition of the competition.
“I am very happy, though not satisfied,” India’s chief national coach Hargobind Singh said. “We could have won one more gold today, but the boys could not stick to the strategy. However, it is still a commendable result.”
Ashu won the day’s first bronze for India in a one-sided 8-1 win over Syria’s Abdulkarim Mohammad Alhasan. Leading 3-1 at the end of the first period — mostly through push-outs — he stepped up the tempo in the second period. Within 30 seconds of the restart, Ashu jumped to a 6-1 lead before thwarting Abdwlkarim’s late charge. Another two points in the last minute put the result beyond doubt.
This was Ashu’s first senior competition, but the 19-year-old showed no nerves at the big stage. “It was a good bout, though I wanted to win gold,” he said.
“There is a lot of difference between junior and senior wrestling. The wrestlers are more mature and seasoned at this stage, and they strategize better. In juniors, we just go all out.”
Ashu was slated to make his senior debut at last year’s Asian Championships but dislocated his left shoulder at the selection trials. He underwent surgery in Mumbai and was out of competition for a year, returning, ironically, at the same event that he missed a year back.
In the 72kg category, Aditya Kundu thumped Japan’s Nao Kusaka 8-0 inside 90 seconds to pocket the country’s second medal of the day.
Initially a freestyle wrestler, Kundu switched to Greco-Roman after injuring both his knees in 2015. The move made sense since Greco-Roman doesn’t involve attacks or holds on legs.
“I have medaled at the senior level in University Games and a gold medal at the Commonwealth Championships in 2017. These achievements gave me the belief that I can do well at Greco-Roman,” Kundu told Firstpost.
The 23-year-old is trained by his father and SAI coach Ranbir Singh Kundu at Zirakpur’s Gulzar Akhara, and his immediate goal is to move from the non-Olympic 72kg class to 67kg.
Returning to competitions after a hiatus of about two years — necessitated by compression fracture in his back — Kundu began the day with an 8-2 mauling of Uzbekistan’s Alijon Khuseynov before beating Tajikistan’s Loiqi Amirkhonzoda with a 9-0 technical superiority.
His next bout, against Kazakhastan’s Ibragim Magomadov, was a complete role reversal — he was no match for the Kazakh and slumped to a 0-9 loss in the semi-final.
“I am disappointed that I could not win a gold or a silver. I couldn’t stick to my strategy, which was to tire out the opponent. I couldn’t execute my plans at the start, and hence missed out,” he said.
In 97kg category, Hardeep lost his opening bout 9-1 to Iran’s Mohammadhadi Abdollah Saravi, whose jaunt to the summit round gave the Indian a chance at redemption. Hardeep, up against Kyrgyzstan’s Beksultan Makhamadzhanovich Makhmudov, won an attritional repechage encounter 3-1 to cap a successful day — albeit one of the missed opportunities — for the hosts.
The third day of the competition will witness women grapplers in action as bouts in 50, 55, 59, 68, and 76kg classes get underway.