Bajrang begins India's gold hunt at the Games

Bajrang begins India's gold hunt at the Games

Bajrang Punia poses with his gold medal after winning the men's freestyle wrestling (65kg) final against Japan's Daichi Takatani at the Asian Games in Jakarta on Sunday. PTI

Bajrang Punia struck gold in superb fashion in wrestling to give India a bright start at the 18th Asian Games here on Sunday.

Bajrang dominated early rounds of the 65kg weight category before edging past a strong rival in Japan’s Daichi Takatani in the final for his first Asian Games gold medal.

The Commonwealth Games champion in this category this year, Bajrang revealed a never-say-die spirit against the Japanese, who came hard at the Indian in the gold medal bout. 

Bajrang was among the pre-event favourites but the way he dealt with the pressure was admirable. “When people start expecting success from you, it is your duty to perform well. The country has great expectations from Bajrang,” he said. At the 2014 Asian Games, Bajrang had won a silver in the 61kg class.

Bajrang’s fellow wrestlers disappointed on the day and even the two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar couldn’t cross the first round.

India’s first medal at these Games had arrived hours earlier at Palembang, the other Indonesian host city. Shooters Ravi Kumar and Apurvi Chandela won a bronze in the mixed air rifle event, finishing behind Chinese Taipei and China after raising hopes of a silver-medal success. The other Indian pair in the mixed competition, Manu Bhaker and Abhishek Verma, missed out on a final berth narrowly in air pistol.

India made encouraging starts in kabaddi, with both men and women posting victories while the men badminton players made the quarterfinals in the team event.

Encouraging performances also came in swimming, though there were no medals. Bengalurean Srihari Nataraj made the final of the 100M backstroke with a national record before finishing seventh while Sajan Prakash also broke a national record to claim the fifth position in 200M butterfly event.