Chiba (Japan): He did not live up to the sky-high expectations but India’s Bajrang Punia will return from Tokyo with a bronze medal on Olympic debut after outwitting Daulet Niyazbekov in the play-off here on Saturday.

If his defence let him down in the semifinal against Hazi Aliev, Bajrang’s smart attacking moves made him a 8-0 winner against Kazakhstan’s Niyazbekov, to whom he had lost in the semifinals of the 2019 World Championship.

With Bajrang’s medal, Indian wrestlers have matched their best performance at the Olympic Games. At the 2012 London Games, Sushil Kumar won a silver and Yogeshwar Dutt returned with a bronze.

With his podium, India also equalled their best ever Olympic medal haul of six achieved in in the 2012 London edition.

Bajrang had defeated Kyrgyzstan’s Ernazar Akmataliev and Iran’s Morteza Cheka Ghiasi before losing to Hazai Aliev from Azerbaijan in the semifinals on Friday.

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