Wrestler Deepak Punia enters final, books Tokyo Olympics quota

Updated: Sep 22, 2019, 10:47 IST | PTI | Nur Sultan

Deepak Punia also became the youngest Indian ever to reach the final of the World Championships

India's Deepak Punia celebrates his semi-final win on Saturday
India's Deepak Punia celebrates his semi-final win on Saturday

Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan): Reigning junior world champion Deepak Punia placed himself in line for the senior world title by reaching the 86kg final apart from booking his Tokyo Olympics quota here on Saturday. Deepak also became the youngest Indian ever to reach the final of the World Championships. Competing in his maiden senior world championship, Deepak moved to the final with a commanding 8-2 win over Switzerland's Stefan Reichmuth. He will fight for the title against 2016 Rio Olympics 74kg gold medallist Hassan Yazdanicharati of Iran on Sunday.

Punia's steady progress

It has been a steady progress for Deepak, who won the World Cadet title in 2016 and became junior world champion only last month in Estonia. He can now emulate double Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar who is till now the only Indian to have won a World Championships title in 2010.Deepak also ensured that India will return from the World Championship with its best ever performance as the country is now assured of four medals. Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Ravi Dahiya have already won a bronze medal each. All of them qualified for the Tokyo Olympics as well.

Rahul Aware can make it even better if he wins Sunday's bronze medal bout in the 61kg non-Olympic category. India had returned with three medals in 2013. Deepak's all-round ability — defence, attack, stamina and awareness on the mat — played a key role in his memorable performance. "I had genuinely hoped for a medal and Olympic quota. So, it is a double delight for me. My seniors like Sushil Kumar and Bajrang Punia inspire me," Deepak said.

Feeling the pressure

"I felt a bit under pressure when I fought with the Kazakh wrestler [in quarter-finals]. He had beaten me in Italy early this year and I was a bit apprehensive about fighting the home wrestler because of the Bajrang bout [controversy]," he added.

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