Sunday, October 17, 2010

Wrestling at the Commonwealth Games: A homage to KD Jadhav

After the withdrawal of Rajiv Tomar and Rahul Mann from the Indian team playing for India at the CWG 2010, the mood was not entirely upbeat. I was disappointed in particular because K.D. Jadhav Wrestling Stadium was not a training venue for wrestlers. The wrestlers were to arrive here only during the competition. After my initial headlock with the competition guys over the podium, I did not have the best relations with them so that I could request them to invite wrestlers to the stadium prior to the event. Anyway I was too busy with the management and the organizational work at the stadium accommodating last minute demands of my supervisors for signages, catering orders, standees, etc.

The first day of Games was pretty smooth sail with Men’s Graeco-Roman 60 kg, 74 kg and 96 kg being a clean sweep by the three Indian wrestlers – Ravinder Singh, Sanjay Kumar and Anil Kumar. A great push to the wrestlers who were to follow-up the day after in their respective weight categories.

On the second day of men’s graeco-roman fight in the weight categories 55 kg, 66 kg, 84 kg and 120 kg, performance of Indian wrestlers may not have been so great but the bouts were rather intriguing. Rajender Kumar landed us a gold in the 55 kg-weight category with Manoj Kumar losing to Efionaye Agbonavbare of Nigeria to settle for the silver in 84 kg weight category. 66 kg graeco-roman was won by Myroslav Dykum of England after he defeated Jack Bond of Canada while Sunil Kumar easily got the bronze ending the bout 1-0, 5-0 to Brett Hawthorn of Wales. Another bronze winner this day was Dharmender Dalal in the 120-kg category who defeated Varntan Aparian of Cyprus by 1-0, 1-0.

Winner in this category were Australia where Ivan Popov had a good control over Nigeria’s Talaram Mamman, score reading 1-0, 5-0.

Day 3 at the wrestling indoor stadium, women’s freestyle for weight categories 48 kg, 55 kg, 63 kg and 72 kg were fought. A disappointing start by 48-kg ‘pehelwan’ Nirmala Devi who had the potential of winning a gold but losing to Carol Huynh of Canada was indeed a ‘silver’ lining in the Indians’ medal tally. Nigerian women emerged pretty strong on these two days as Odunayo Fo Adekuroye landed just the bronze in the 55-kg weight category defeating Brumilda Leeuw of the Republic of South Africa.

55 kg women’s freestyle Indian performer, Geeta, was a powerpunch as she first defeated Welsh wrestler to contest against Lovina Odohi Edward of Nigeria and finally defeat Emily Bensted to claim a victory by fall. With a total of 5 classification points and 11 technical points, Geeta’s gold-clinching performance has been unmatchable in the entire 6-day play at the stadium.

63 kg weight performer Suman Kundu seemed to be a promising player as she defeated Scottish Tracy Connell in the quarter-final to make it to the semis but Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu proved to be rather strong and robust. Kundu played well in the repechage final defeating Zumick Geringer of the Republic of South Africa while the gold was won by Justine Bouchard after she defeated Blessing Oborududu in the final bout.

Unfortunately 72 kg Indian wrestler Anshu Tomar was ousted in the first qualification round itself by Nigeria’s Hellen Okus. Anshu was no match to the strength Hellen displayed; Anshu’s clinches and grapples failed entirely here. Hellen Okus went onto win the bronze beating Sarah Jones from Scotland. It was a decision by points where Sarah was the loser without technical points. The total number of technical points earned by Hellen were 4 - 2 in the first period and 2 in the second period which also gave her a total of 3 classification points. 72-kg winner Ohenewa Akuffo represented Canada and gave a good defeat to Annabel Laure Ali from Cameroon. Akuffo is a potential Olympic medal winner.

October 8 was a good day for Indian women on the two mats on which bouts began simultaneously like every other day. 51 kg participant was a feather in the cap for India – Babita Kumari went onto win the silver; 59 kg participant Alka Tomar easily placed herself for the final bout that won her the gold while Anita as 67 kg-gold winner boosted India’s morale at the Games for the two days that were to follow.

Next two days where men’s freestyle events were to follow saw huge crowds with spectators cheering aloud for the men competitors. Yogeshwar Dutt won the gold beating James Mancini of Canada while Sasha Madyarchyk settled for the bronze. Yogeshwar won a total of 9 technical points and 3 classification points beating James Mancini by 7 technical points.

In 74 kg weight category, Narsingh Pancham Yadav clinched the gold with South Africa’s Richard Brian Addinall landing a silver for himself and Evan MacDonald of Canada winning the bronze. Yadav played with equal vigour in both the periods – 2 technical points in each period collecting 3 classification points for himself defeating Richard for gathering 0 technical points.

96-kg freestyle final was a neck and neck between Nigeria and Canada with Sinvie Boltic getting the gold after beating Korey Jarvis; Leon Gregor Rattigan of England being the bronze medal winner. While Boltic earned his 1st technical point in period 1; Jarvis equalled it in the second period and the third period saw both earn 2 points each. Boltic, however, collected 3 classification points and Jarvis only 1; and this is probably what won him the bout even though the score-sheet produced by GNS said ‘the loser with technical points’ (3-3?). Anil Mann, the Indian was out in the first round itself losing to England in the qualifier.

October 10 was the final day of the bout that saw the stadium colourful with buntings, vuvuzelas and stickers, posters and banners for cheering. Anil Kumar playing in the 55 –kg weight category was ousted by Azhar Hussain of Pakistan in the quarter-final but retained the bronze after beating Craig Pilling of Wales. Azhar Hussain was in form and won the gold beating Ebikewenimo Welson of Nigeria. Azhar Hussain’s flash quote, taken by GNS, specified that due to little or no graeco-roman training in Pakistan, the players barely had any practice in the graeco-roman throws but did well in the freestyle grapples.

Loud cheer for Sushil Kumar of 66 kg-weight category who first defeated Tarash Mehrdad of Australia and then Muhammad Salman of Pakistan; subsequently beating Farmara Jarjou (3-0) of The Gambia to face Heinrich Barnes of South Africa in the final bout. Gaining a 2-0, 5-0 win over Heinrich within a match of two periods seemed a rather cakewalk for this Kumar. Chris Prickett of Canada went ahead to win the bronze for this category.

84 kg category representative was Anuj Kumar of India . He got a silver after losing to Muhammad Inam of Pakistan – 3-2, 0-1, 0-1. Andrew Dick of Nigeria got the bronze.

120 kg match was an interesting one with Arjan Bhullar of Canada fighting it out with Joginder Kumar of India for the gold medal. Arjan won the final bout 1-0, 3-0. Cameroon’s Thiery Onanena landed up with the bronze.

Power-packed 6-day competition at this venue proved that it is good to encourage new faces in the sport. Even though four original team players – Rajiv Tomar, Sumit, Mausam Khatri and Gursharanpreet Kaur were replaced by other wrestlers, Indian team proved that they could still keep the Indian flag flying high.

For me, personally, mother of all bouts was Geeta’s. Bewitching experience to watch her gain control of Emily in the first period as she gained 1 point after another to gather a total of 3. In the second period she performed extremely well. She started out well making 3 points right at the start as she kept Emily glued onto the mat for five seconds. Another 1 point gained in the next few seconds as she kept Emily under grabs. 1 more point gained in keeping her held down after which Geeta gained 2 points once again. The last pointer of hers was a bonus she gained as Emily was being unable to escape or perform any game-changer technique or tactic. Geeta's total scoring in the second period-round was commendable – 3-1-1-2-1.

Wish there would be more technical replays in a standard national-level wrestling bout televised on the national television – doordarshan!

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