by Elton Gomes
India got off to a golden start on Day 1 of the Asian Games in Indonesia. Wrestler Bajrang Punia won the gold medal after defeating Japan’s Takatani Daichi in the men’s freestyle wrestling (65 kg). Shooters Apurvi Chandela and Ravi Kumar both won a bronze medal each in the 10 m air rifle mixed team event. Wrestler Sushil Kumar had a disappointing start after he was defeated by Bahrain’s Adam Batirov. Kumar’s campaign in the Games will now be in Batirov’s hands.
The 18th edition of the Asian Games saw hosts Indonesia put up a dazzling opening ceremony. In a display of unity, the North and South Korean contingent marched together amidst considerable cheer and fanfare. Ace javelin thrower Neeraj Chopra held the Indian flag as he led the country’s 804-member strong contingent. After the countries completed the march, Indonesian singer Via Vallen performed the Games’ theme song Meraih Bintang. Thereafter, the Games were declared open by Indonesian President Joko Widodo. Here are all the highlights from the first day of the Games.
Punia wins gold
After defeating Japan’s Takatani Daichi 11-8 in the men’s 65 kg freestyle final, Bajrang Punia won India’s first gold at the Asian Games 2018.
🥇CHAMPION 🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/tIQIyXNXjS
— Bajrang Punia (@BajrangPunia) August 19, 2018
The 24-year-old wrestler played aggressively throughout the game and left his opponent with no chance to take the lead. With this gold, Punia adds to his medal tally after he finished with a gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games held in Australia. Punia then took to Twitter to share his gratitude with his team and coach. ”This medal is a result of months of hard work. First of all, I want to thank the Sports Authority of India (SAI), Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) and TOPs – they have all contributed to my success,” he tweeted. In another tweet, he said, ”I am also grateful to my Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ) family who helped me with a great coach Emzarios Bentinidis, physio Sumya, Shubham and nutritionist Tajinder – they are always with me,” India Today reported.
On the road to the final, Punia defeated Mongolia’s Batmagnai Batchuluun 10-0 in the semi finals, and overpowered Tajikistan’s Abdulqasim Fayziev in the quarters. Speaking on Punia’s win, coach Emzarious Bentinidis told ANI: “It was a very difficult match, but I never felt that Bajrang will lose this bout. Not even one percent. He is a very big sportsman and has a bright future,” as per the India Today report.
More medals for India
After Punia’s gold, India increased its medal tally after Ravi Kumar and Apurvi Chandela won bronze in the 10 m Air Rifle mixed team event. Kumar and Chandela manged to amass a total of 429.9 points after 42 shots in the 48-shot final and were in second spot for a long time before China overtook them to win silver.
Chandela won her maiden Asian Games medal and will aim to change the medal colour in the 10m air rifle. Apart from winning gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Chandela has won multiple times in the World Cup.
Mentored by India’s great Abhinav Bindra, Kumar had previously won a men’s 10 m rifle team bronze at the 2014 Asian Games at Incheon.
“Our best finish together was fourth at the World Cup and we have improved on that. My first Asian Games medal and my first medal for India here. I am really happy about that but my focus is on main event (10m rifle) tomorrow,” Chandela told PTI, the Quint reported. Kumar attributed the win largely to Chandela: “This bronze has come only because of Apurvi. The final was a disappointment after a decent qualification. We didnt get enough time to train together,” Kumar told PTI.
Sushil Kumar suffers shock loss
Wrestler Sushil Kumar lost his qualification round in the 74 kg wrestling event to Bahrain’s Adam Batirov. Although Kumar remained in contention of winning a medal, his hopes were dashed after Batirov lost his quarterfinal bout to Japan’s Fujinama Yuihi. Through the repechage, if Batirov had made it to the final, Kumar stood a chance of winning bronze.
Talking about the loss, Sushil said, “It (the defeat) was not expected. The 57 kg world champion was sitting beside me and ‘he said he lost. I told him don’t worry, I have lost. It’s part of sport’. I will come back again,” NDTV reported.
Kumar was leading 2-1 after the first period, but Batirov made a strong comeback. Kumar created two opportunities in the second period, but failed to convert them. Batirov capitalized on these missed chances and led 3-2 with a take down and pushed Kumar out for a win.
Kumar however defended his tactics: “I made a mistake by attacking him later on when I just needed to defend. I am playing a big event after four years, that is why there were small mistakes,” as per the NDTV report.
Elton Gomes is a staff writer at Qrius
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