Bajrang Punia faced a crushing defeat in the semifinals of the 65 kg men’s wrestling of the Olympics on Friday. The Indian wrestler was defeated 5-12 by three-time world medalist Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan at the Makuhari Messe Hall. He will now wrestle for the bronze medal match on Saturday.
The Indian grappler showed his intentions of going all out even before he stepped on the mat. Competing with an injured knee, Punia made a short sprint to the dais which certainly had its effect for a while.
He started the game strong as Aliyev took a more defensive approach. The Azerbaijan wrestler was put on the shot clock for passivity and failed to score.
However, he quickly grabbed the lead with a takedown and soon extended the margin to 4-1 with the same set of moves.
The Azerbaijan wrestler led by three points at the end of the first three minutes.
In the second period, Aliyev came all guns blazing as he extended his lead to 8-1 with a takedown followed by a roll, exposing Punia’s chest.
The Indian wrestler showed signs of a fightback after registering four points but Aliyev continued his attack, despite getting tired. He extended his lead to 12-5, which was a handful for an injured Punia.
Earlier in the day, Punia won both games in close-encounters. He began his campaign defeating Ernazar Akmataliev of Kyrgyzstan in the first round and followed it by pinning Iran's Morteza Ghiasi Cheka to the mat (victory by fall) in the quarterfinals.
He will now meet the winner of the repechage one between Adama Diatta (Senegal) and Daulet Niyazbekov (Kazakhstan).
The Kazakh wrestler is likely to be Punia's opponent for the bronze medal bout. The duo have met at the 2019 world championship semi-final where Niyazbekov won.
The bronze medal bout will be held late on Saturday.