Wrestler Sushil, boxer Vijender concoct a double delight (India lead)

August 20th, 2008 - 11:57 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 20 (IANS) Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar gave Indian sport a double delight Wednesday. Freestyle 66-kg wrestler Sushil, all of five-foot-four, won a bronze medal, and Vijender, an incredibly handsome six-footer, will spend the night in anticipation of changing the hue of the medal he already has in his pocket.With his first-round conqueror reaching the final, Sushil got a reprieve, as it were, and a place in repechage, which then gave him a chance to win three bouts in a space of 75 minutes and bring in India’s second ever Olympic wrestling medal, but the first in 56 years. K. D. Jadhav had finished third in the freestyle bantamweight category at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics.

Later, as the Indian contingent was in the throes of celebrations following Sushil’s glittering bronze, flyweight (51 kg) boxer Jitender Kumar came out with a lot of hope, but in the end bowed down to a more experienced Georgy Balakshin, a three-time European champion.

An hour and a half later, Vijender ensured there would be no gloom in the boxing circles, as he outclassed Ecuadorian Carlos Gongora 9-4 and entered the middleweight (75 kg) semi-finals, where he meets the 23-year-old Cuban Emilio Correa Bayeaux Friday.

Sushil scored a stunning win over Kazakhstan’s Leonid Spiridonov in the third round of the repechage to give the country its second medal of the Beijing Games.

Sushil, a resident of Boprala village in West Delhi’s Najafgarh area, won the fight in the extra 30-second period to ensure a podium finish, when everyone had lost hope after his first round loss Wednesday morning.

Sushil had gone down to Andriy Stadnik of Ukraine on points. But his slender hopes hung on the results of his conqueror, Stadnik, who went on to reach the final. That gave Sushil an extra lease of life as all wrestlers losing to the two finalists then contest the repechage.

“I thought I could have won the bout in the morning, but luck was later with me as the Ukraine wrestler reached the final and I got into the repechage. It was still not easy and fighting three bouts in just over one hour is very tiring and tough,” said the 25-year-old Sushil.

“I owe my career to Satpal Singh, who is my guru and taught me all that I know. I dedicate this medal to him,” he said minutes after winning.

In the first repechage round, Sushil beat American Doug Schwab, the World No. 5, and then in the second round he moved past Albert Batyrov of Belarus for a final fight against Spiridonov, who was fourth at the last Olympic Games.

In the last and final repechage bout, Sushil Kumar after being tied 2-2 seemed to be unlucky when his rival drew the lot for a hold to break the tie. But Sushil defied the normal odds and outpointed Spiridonov in that extra time for a technical point and emerged victorious as the crowd and the coaches in his red corner went up in jubilation.

“This is a great medal for Indian wrestling and will go a long way in promoting Olympic sports in India,” added three-time Asian Games medallist wrestler and team manager Kartar Singh.

The boxer-turned-model Vijender carved out an emphatic 9-4 victory over Ecuador’s Carlos Gongora in a lop-sided quarterfinal at the Workers’ Gymnasium. Both losing semifinalists are given bronze in the discipline.

Vijender never kept anyone in doubt about his victory since the bout started.

In the opening round, Vijender went ahead 2-0, putting his lethal left hooks to good use while never dropping guard, and went on widening the gulf. Even in the fourth and last round, he tried to accumulate more points instead of defending his lead.

The Ecuadorian tried his best to stage a comeback in the fourth round, picking a couple of successive points, but by then Vijender had more or less sealed the contest. Earlier, Jitender went down fighting to European champion Georgy Balakshin of Russia 11-15.

Watched by his idol Akhil Kumar, Jitender gave one of the most aggressive performances of his career and even came back into the match after trailing 1-2 in the first round. The second round was evenly fought and Jitender reduced the margin to 6-7. The third round, however, turned out to be a crucial one for the 20-year-old Indian, who found himself at the receiving end of the Russian’s punches. After the third round, Balakshin took a huge lead of 13-8.

In the last round, Jitender fought valiantly but the Russian, who was enjoying a lead of five points, employed a defensive tactics and finally won the bout to sail into the semifinals.

In the morning, paddler Achanta Sharath Kamal went down to the Chinese-born Chen Weixing 1-4 in the second round.

India’s challenge here still has Vijender in boxing semis, wrestler Rajiv Tomer in heavyweight and the women’s relay team in athletics.

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