NEW DELHI: Bajrang Punia may have a third World Championships medal around his neck but it’s not the colour he envisioned while taking the flight to Nur Sultan.
The fans’ verdict is that the world No. 1 from India was robbed of gold and the bronze medal he had to settle for was at best a consolation. The Olympic quota, many believe, will be closer to Bajrang’s heart than this medal. He will be going to his first Olympics in Tokyo next year.
Bajrang’s controversy-marred 65kg semifinal had the world talking about below par refereeing standards.
Kuchh meri kami lagao, kuchh baaki cheezein (some mistakes from me, and some other factors). They were giving their decisions but some went against me,” said Bajrang after winning his bronze-medal bout against Tulga Tumur Ochir of Mongolia.
He won 8-7 to win his third World Championships medal, after the bronze in 2013 and silver last year.
Punia was down 2-9 in the semifinal he lost to Kazakhstan’s Shaken Niyazbekov. He turned the bout on its head by making it 9-9. It remained the final score but the Kazakh was declared the winner having made the highest-scoring move, a four-pointer.
Falling short of changing the colour of his medal, Punia wore a bewildered look as the home fans celebrated in the stands.
He had even challenged after one of his moves didn’t fetch a point, but Punia lost the challenge and conceded another point as a result. A repeat warning to Niyazbekov for poking Punia and holding onto his singlet later also didn’t move the judges and mat chairman.
“I challenged because it was my action, my points. You ask any referee, it will not go against me,” Punia explained.
“It was my bad luck that I had a Kazakh opponent,” he added without elaborating any further.
But like a true sportsperson, Punia wants to move on, with the Olympics knocking at the door.
“I will do my training according to the schedule my coaches will make. I have no plan yet,” he concluded.