Incheon: Bajrang Kumar is just 20, but he is already turning out to be a big star for the future. The young wrestler, whom both Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt have singled out as the big prospect for the future and Rio Olympics won his third silver medal of the year.
India's Bajrang Kumar (in blue) competes with Iran's Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybari during the 61kg gold medal tie in Incheon yesterday. Pics/AFP
Yesterday evening Bajrang added an Asian Games silver to the silver from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July and the Asian Championships silver in Astana in April.
Put alongside the 2013 World Championships bronze and the 2013 Asian Championships bronze, he is already on his way to stardom and emulating his seniors. Fighting in the 61 kg category Bajrang was narrowly beaten by Iran's Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybari 1-3 and had to be content with a silver. But he could hold his head high in pride.
Bajrang, who joined Northern Railways just two days before coming to Incheon, called his joining Railways as a good omen. Yesterday, he fought his heart out, but was still unable to emulate his senior teammate, Yogeshwar Dutt, who won the gold a day earlier
Bajrang was two points down in the first three-minute period but then gave his more experienced and better decorated opponent, Masoud, a run for his money in the second period as both scored four points each in the period. Then Bajrang ran out of time and had to stay satisfied with a silver medal on his Asian Games debut.
Minutes later Narsingh Yadav added a bronze beating Japan's Daisuke Shimada in the play-off for bronze after coming through repachage in the 74 kg category.
Narsingh Yadav poses with his bronze medal yesterday
Bajrang gave no excuses. He said, "I have lost to the same wrestler twice before. Previously, I lost 0-11 and 0-6, so this time it was a better fight at 4-6." Then shyly he smiled and added, "Maybe next time I will win."
He admitted to having been defensive in the first period. "We knew he is a tough fighter with a lot of experience. He has won a medal at World Championships two times, including recently.
He beat me two times, including the final of the Asian Championships in Kazakhstan in April this year. He has lot of experience, but he has lost to Yogeshwar in the Olympics (in the repachage second, as Yogeshwar went on to win a bronze). Yogeshwar, who is like my elder brother, also gave me his advise on him.'
After a distinguished junior career, Bajrang's first big medal was a bronze at the 2013 Asians in New Delhi, when Masoud skipped the event.
Masoud and Bajrang's fortunes seemed intertwined. Masoud won his first Asian championships gold in New Delhi in 2010 when Bajrang was still a junior. Then in 2014 Asians in Astana, Kazakhstan, Masoud beat Bajrang in the final.
Interestingly, when Bajrang won the bronze at the World Championships in 2013, he came in as a replacement for injured Yogeshwar Dutt. Bajrang's hopes seemed to have ended after her lost 0-7 lost to Bulgaria's Vladimir Dubov in the second round. But with Dubov advancing to the final Bajrang got a second chance through repachage.
A walkover against injured Shogo Maeda of Japan and a 10-3 win over Romania's Ivan Guidea set him up for the bronze medal match, which he won by beating Mongolia's Enkhsaikhany Nyam-Ochir. From the other half, Masoud after losing the semi-final to the eventual gold medallist, Russian Bekkhan Goygereyev, came into repachage and won the other bronze in the category.
This year Bajrang skipped the World Championships to focus on Asian Games, while Masoud went on to win a silver medal.
Immediately after Bajrang's bout, Nar Singh Yadav won the bronze medal in the freestyle 74kg beating Shimada.
Yadav was trailing his opponent 1-2 after the first period. The second period turned out to be an interesting battle that saw the Indian make a come-from-behind victory. The Indian grappler lost a challenge in the second round giving Shimada a total of four points that also helped the Japanese open a 7-5 lead.
However, Yadav fought back well and quickly drew parity at 7-7 and stretch the bout to additional 35 seconds and pulled it off in style winning 10-7 after the Japanese lost a call for review. Yadav was declared the winner 3-1 on the basis of classification points.
The number of silver medals won by Bajrang Kumar this year — Commonwealth Games, Asian Championships and Asian Games