Deepak Punia reaches final of World C'ships, books Tokyo berth

Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan), Sep 21 

A month after winning the Junior World Championships, India's rising star Deepak Punia (86kg) will now aim for the senior gold as well after he reached the final of the Wrestling World Championships on Saturday.

The 19-year-old, who became the youngest Indian ever to make it to the final of the World Championships, also bagged a Tokyo 2020 Olympic quota in the process.

Deepak, who also won the World Cadet title in 2016, is thus the fourth Indian grappler to book a Tokyo ticket this week, following Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia and Ravi Kumar Dahiya. While each of them pocketed a bronze medal, Deepak will be the only Indian to return home with at least a silver.

While Deepak was easily the star of the show on the penultimate day of the championships, Rahul Aware (61kg) also remains in contention for a bronze in the non-Olympic category.

Deepak made a slow and nervous start to his maiden campaign at the Worlds, but showed terrific maturity and presence of mind to turn the tables. Trailing 0-5 against the home favourite Adilet Davlumbayev, Punia stormed back to complete an 8-6 comeback win.
Against Tajikistan's Bakhodur Kodirov, Punia never relinquished his control to secure a commanding 6-0 win and then followed it up with a gritty and hard-fought 7-6 victory over Carlos Arturo Izquierdo Mendez of Colombia that gave him the prized Olympic berth.

In the semi-finals, Deepak beat Switzerland's Stefan Reichmuth 8-2 to set up a final showdown with Olympic and world champion Hassan Aliazam Yazdani Charati of Iran.

Commonwealth Games gold medallist Rahul Aware made a thunderous start to his challenge with an emphatic 13-2 victory over Turkmenistan's Kerim Hojakov. Against Kazakhstan's Rassul Kaliyev in the last-eight round, the Indian had to dig deep and relied on his finesse to secure a 10-7 victory.

Aware then came up short against the European Championship silver medallist Beka Lomtadze of Georgia, 6-10 in a very fast semi-final match.

Meanwhile, Jitender (79kg) lost in the quarter-finals to Slovakia's Taimuraz Salkazanov 0-4. In 97kg, Mausam Khatri was completely outplayed by the reigning Olympic champion Kyle Frederick Snyder of USA in 0-10 verdict.

With both their opponents failing to reach the finals, Jitender and Khatri bowed out of the championships.

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