Star grappler Bajrang Punia, on the verge of creating history, failed to overcome a tough, but tactically very good Takuto Otoguro from Japan when he lost the 65kg Freestyle final 9-16 in the World Championships at the Papp László Sport arena in Budapest on Monday.
Punia settled for a silver medal and also became the only Indian wrestler to win two medals at the worlds. However, he could not emulate two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar, who still holds the record of winning the lone gold in the 66 kg class in 2010 Moscow championships.
"It was so near and yet so far," the 24-year-old wrestler said.
"Having reached the final, I expected to win gold but I will have to be satisfied with a silver medal. I am happy to have bettered my bronze medal effort, achieved five years ago at the same venue."
It was, undoubtedly, one of the most aggressive finals one had witnessed in the championships. The reigning Cadet World champion stamped his authority right from the word go, logging his first point on step out and then added a four-pointers for the lift to lead 5-0. Equally aggressive Punia got his first two points on takedown and narrowed down the first-period lead to 6-7.
Despite his determined return in the second period, the balance had tilted in favour of the Japanese who scored three points to go up 9-6 on a takedown and a step out.
With time running out, the onus was on the Indian, who used all his tricks and force to go for the leg and upper body but the Japanese defended stoutly, including adopting 'delaying tactics'.
No doubt, they fetched the Indian two points with a couple of warnings to Otoguro but in the end, it didn't matter much to the eventual winner who was way ahead of Punia. The Indian just about manage to add another point with the clock ticking away even as the Japanese surged to nine in the second period.
'Silver is no mean achievement'
Coach Jagmander Singh, disappointed as he was, said it was not India's day at Budapest.
"Yes, we all would have wanted him to win gold, but a silver medal is no mean achievement. But Punia has been consistent throughout the season and has wrapped up this season with two major titles and a silver medal in the world championships here. And this is what every wrestler dream about," Singh said.
Earlier in the day, both Pankaj Rana in 70 kg and Mausam Khatri in 97 kg bowed out without much to show. Rana went down 0-10 to Ikhtivor Navruzov of Uzbekistan in the second round while winning the first round against Jarvissadam Blesam Tarkong of Palau (10-0) by technical fall. However, Khatri lost in the first round to Jose Daniel Dias Robertti of Venezuela 2-12.
In women's freestyle event, Seema lost her second-round bout (0-10) to Davaachimeg Erkhembayar of Mongolia by fall after receiving first-round bye in 55 kg category. But Sarita managed to win two rounds before losing to Shoovdor Baatarjay of Mongolia, also by fall in the quarterfinals. The Indian lost 10-0.