India at Olympics: Wrestler Bajrang Punia secures semifinal spot with stunning win

Tokyo: Top Indian grappler Bajrang Punia defeated Iran’s Morteza Ghiasi by fall in the quarterfinal of the Tokyo Olympic Games men’s 65kg event to secure a last-four berth at the Makuhari Messe Hall on Friday.

Punia will be up against Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliyev — the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist in 57kg and a three-time world champion in 61kg — in the semifinal. Aliyev defeated Daulet Niyazkebov of Kazakhstan to enter the last-four.

Earlier on Friday, Punia had survived a scare to overcome Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev in the opening Round-of-16 bout to set up a quarterfinal clash against Ghiasi.

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Punia, 27, who is making his Olympic debut, earned his first point after a passivity penalty on his Kyrgyzstan opponent, Akmataliev.

Akmataliev levelled the score with a push-out but in the final moments of the first period, Punia surged ahead 3-1 with a takedown.

Early in the second period, Punia looked the more aggressive of the two grapplers but Akmataliev held his ground with a tight defence.

Towards the end, though, the Kyrgyzstan wrestler made his move and scored back-to-back pushouts to level the score at 3-3. Punia defended with all his might in the final seconds of the bout to not concede a point.

Despite the score being level at the end of the contest, Punia took the win since he had scored the highest-scoring move in the match — the two-point takedown in the first period.

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