India dominates Commonwealth Games with 3 golds

By Vinay Siwach

COVENTRY, England (August 8) -- When Bajrang PUNIA (IND) lost to David TREMBLAY (CAN) in the 2014 Commonwealth Games final, a 13-year-old Lachlan McNEIL (CAN) was in the crowd at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre in Glasgow.

While Tremblay managed to beat Punia, McNeil's attempt to repeat the feat eight years later in the Coventry Arena on Friday fell short as Punia, now a veteran of three Commonwealth Games, defended his 65kg gold medal with little trouble.

Punia and McNeil reached the 65kg gold medal bout by beating George RAMM (ENG) and Inayat ULLAH (PAK) with ease. With gold on the line, McNeil did put up a fight, scoring the only takedown against Punia in the competition, but it wasn't enough as the Tokyo bronze medalist won the bout 10-2.

That was one of the three gold medals India won on day one of wrestling at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. Deepak PUNIA (IND) and Sakshi MALIK (IND) were also crowned first-time Commonwealth champions.

But it was Punia's gold that delighted the huge contingent of Indian fans at the arena.

"When you are wrestling at any tournament, you don't think about the difficulty of it," Punia said. "I wrestled thinking everyone is important and I want to be back to the level I was in 2018 and 2019."

Since winning the bronze in Tokyo, Punia has suffered two losses -- against Rahman AMOUZAD (IRI) in the Asian Championships final and Abbos RAKHMANOV (UZB) at the Ranking Series in Almaty.

But with the World Championships just a month away, he would like to put behind the two losses and take confidence from the win in Birmingham.

"World Championships is the main goal," he said. "I have been preparing for that and now it's very close."

For McNeil, the Commonwealth Games were a learning experience as he tries to win a berth for Canada for the Paris Olympics.

"The sole purpose of coming here was to wrestle Bajrang," McNeil said. "He is a world-class wrestler and he proved it. But it's a great experience and I will carry it forward to the Olympics in Paris."

Deepak PUNIA (IND)Deepak PUNIA (IND), gold medalist, with the three other medalists at 86kg in Coventry. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

Another Punia had a higher stake in the final. Not only was Deepak wrestling for gold, but he also had to beat Muhammad INAM (PAK), a wrestler who has never lost to an Indian at the Commonwealth Games.

The two-time champion kept Deepak quiet for a long time but was called passive in the first period. Deepak scored a stepout during the activity period to lead 2-0 at the break. A tiring Inam kept going for half-hearted attacks and Deepak managed to get another stepout.

He managed to keep Inam away until the clock expired, winning the gold at 86kg, 3-0.

Amarveer DHESI (CAN)Amarveer DHESI (CAN) won his first Commonwealth Games gold on Friday. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

The final freestyle gold medal went to Pan-Am champion Amarveer DHESI (CAN) who defeated another Pakistan wrestler in Zaman ANWAR in the final.

Anwar did score two points but Dhesi was class apart, winning the gold medal with a fall after leading 9-2.

In the semifinal, Dhesi was up against Mohit GREWAL (IND) and managed to get an easy 12-2 win and keep his promise of winning against India at the Commonwealth Games.

"An Indo-Canadian and Indian wrestling always makes things complex back home," Dhesi said. "But great to get the win and be on the top of the podium."

Dhesi will now try to repeat the feat at the World Championships in Belgrade.

"The weight class has some solid guys but my aim remains the same -- to reach the podium," he said.

Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR)Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR), red, defeated Linda MORAIS (CAN) to win the 68kg gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

Repeat for Oborududu, Adekuoroye

Olympic silver medalist Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR) became a two-time Commonwealth Games champion after winning the 68kg gold medal in Coventry.

Wrestling former world champion at 59kg Linda MORAIS (CAN), Oborududu controlled the bout till the end and gave no chance to Morais to attack.

At one point the score was 3-1 and Morais fancied her chance of winning the gold with a takedown but Oborududu managed to score a go-behind in the final moments and win 5-1.

Blessing, who became the first-ever wrestler from Africa to reach an Olympic final in Tokyo, won gold in 2018 but has a silver from the 2010 edition and a bronze from 2014.

"For me, I was calm in the final," Oborududu said. "I wanted to control the final and not attack too much. I knew the match would be tough if I don't wrestle smart. I didn't need to panic and that's why I wrestled how I did."

Morais will also be at the World Championships at 68kg and will be hoping to avenge the loss.

"We thought it's a good opportunity to jump to 68kg and be part of the team," Morais said.

Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR)Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) defended her 57kg gold after beating Anshu MALIK (IND) in the final. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

Adekuoroye, who wrestled Pooja DHANDA (IND) in the 57kg final in Gold Coast, defeated world silver medalist Anshu MALIK (IND) in the final to defend her gold.

In their only meeting before Birmingham, Adekuoroye won via technical superiority over Malik. While the score was close on Friday, the result was Adekuoroye won the gold.

She got a double leg for a takedown to lead 2-0 and kept Malik off the hooks for the remaining time. As the break approached, Adekuoroye once again blasted a double and made the lead 4-0.

Malik continued her attacks and did get a takedown after Adekuoroye was penalized for a passivity point. But the takedown was a little too late as the Nigerian won 7-3 before breaking to her dance to celebrate the gold.

Sakshi MALIK (IND)Sakshi MALIK's (IND) move that helped her secure the fall over Ana GONZALEZ (CAN). (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis) 

The gold at 62kg was captured by Sakshi MALIK (IND) as she came from behind to beat U23 world champion Ana GONZALEZ (CAN) in the final.

Gonzalez jumped to a 4-0 lead at the break with two takedowns and Malik was struggling to find openings.

"I thought I could win and I was really confident," Gonzalez said. "But I had to be a little proactive in the second period and not let her wrestle her way."

Malik, trying to get her favorite double-leg attack, kept Gonzalez close to her and snapped which allowed Malik to grab Gonzalez leg. She turned it into an underhook and got the double. With Gonzalez falling on her back, Malik kept the pressure and secured the fall.

"I have a bronze medal at Commonwealth and silver so this time I just thought that I have to get the gold and I am happy to get it," Malik said.



GOLD: Bajrang PUNIA (IND) df. Lachlan McNEIL (CAN), 9-2

BRONZE: George RAMM (ENG) df. Lowe BINGHAM (NRU), 11-0
BRZONE: Inayat ULLAH (PAK) df. Ross CONNELLY (SCO), 10-0

GOLD: Deepak PUNIA (IND) df. Muhammad INAM (PAK), 3-0

BRONZE: Alexander MOORE (CAN) df. Matthew OXENHAM (NZL), 10-0
BRONZE: Jayden LAWRENCE (AUS) df. Edward LESSING (RSA), 12-11

GOLD: Amarveer DHESI (CAN) df. Zaman ANWAR (PAK), via fall

BRONZE: Mohit GREWAL (IND) df. Aaron JOHNSON (JAM), via fall
BRONZE: Mandhir KOONER (ENG) df. Kensley MARIE (MAU), via fall

Women's wrestling

GOLD: Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) df. Anshu MALIK (IND), 7-4

BRONZE: Hannah TAYLOR (CAN) df. Sophia AYIETA (KEN), via fall

GOLD: Sakshi MALIK (IND) df. Ana GODINEZ GONZALEZ (CAN), via fall

BRONZE:: Berthe ETANE (CMR) df. Kelsey BARNES (ENG), 9-4
BRONZE: Esther KOLAWOLE (NGR) df. Abbie FOUNTAIN (SCO), 10-0

GOLD: Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR) df. Linda MORAIS (CAN), 5-1

BRONZE: Tayla FORD (NZL) df. Amylee AZA (MAU), via fall
BRONZE: Divya KAKRAN (IND) df. Tiger COCKER (TGA), via fall


India, Canada share 5 golds as Commonwealth Games comes to close

By Vinay Siwach

COVENTRY, England (August 6) -- As the Commonwealth Games came to a close, two of the most successful countries in the history of the Games -- Canada and India -- established their supremacy, sharing five of the six gold medals on offer on Saturday.

India won the freestyle golds at 57kg and 74kg along with the 53kg gold in women's wrestling. Canada had two champions on Saturday with Justina DI STASIO (CAN) winning the 76kg gold while Nishant RANDHAWA (CAN) winning the 97kg gold.

Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) was the other champion on Saturday as she claimed the third women's wrestling gold for Nigeria by winning the 50kg weight category.

But two wrestlers who stood out at the Coventry Arena were Olympic silver medalist Ravi KUMAR (IND) and world bronze medalist Vinesh PHOGAT (IND).

Kumar finished all three of his bouts well before the six minutes and showed the gulf in class in 57kg in Birmingham.

Wrestling Nigeria’s multiple-Commonwealth medalist Ebikewenimo WELSON (NGR) in the final, Kumar used a leg lace to lead 8-0 before getting a takedown in the second period to finish the bout 10-0.

This was Kumar’s first medal at the Commonwealth Games.

“It’s always special to win the medal at Games and this was also special,” Kumar said. “Tokyo silver was special and so is this medal.”

Kumar, hoping to win a World Championships medal in Belgrade, has been on an incredible run, winning three golds and losing only one bout since Tokyo.

He did give up four points in the semifinal against Asad ALI (PAK) but said that it was more about getting stuck in a move.

"It's wrestling and sometimes we get stuck in a move," he said. "I can't say I was off guard or wasn't moving well. Just a move I got stuck in and he managed to score."

NAVEEN (IND)NAVEEN (IND), red, defeated Muhammad TAHIR (PAK) 9-0 in the 74kg final. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

NAVEEN (IND) added another gold to India’s account as he dominated the 74kg field and defeated Muhammad TAHIR (PAK) 9-0 in the gold bout.

Tahir was put on passivity as well when Naveen continued his attacks. Four takedowns gave him the eight other points.

A bronze medalist at the Asian Championships, Naveen will try to make the Indian team at 74kg for the World Championships.

Nishan RANDHAWA (CAN)Nishan RANDHAWA (CAN) became the Commonwealth Games champion at 97kg. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

At 97kg, Nishan RANDHAWA (CAN) defeated two U20 World bronze medalists en route to winning the gold medal with some tough wins.

In the quarterfinal, he wrestled Deepak NEHRA (IND) and almost suffered a loss as Nehra was leading 6-6 on criteria with nine seconds remaining. But Randhawa scored a stepout and got the all-important point to win 7-6 and reach the semifinals. He managed to beat Tayab RAZA (PAK) 7-0 to make it to the final.

"Nehra was defending very well and it was a back-and-forth match," Randhawa said. "But I knew I have enough time to score a takedown. He went to the zone and I capitalized with the stepout."

He wrestled another U20 world bronze medalist in the final in Nicolas DE LANGE (RSA) and made it look easy with a 9-3 win for the gold.

"I have wrestled him before at the U20 Worlds and I know his style," he said. "It's great to win the gold here."

Randhawa, a U20 bronze medalist himself, will now be hoping to medal at the senior World Championships in Belgrade, Serbia.

"I train in Iowa and I believe in my potential," he said. "As you train with the best in the world, you keep improving and hopefully I will be able to beat the wrestlers at 97kg. If not now, then when?"

Vinesh PHOGAT (IND)Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) claimed her third consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

Vinesh wins third gold

Her cousin sister Geeta PHOGAT (IND) may be the first Indian woman to win the Commonwealth gold but Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) became the first woman from the country to win it three times.

In a confidence-boosting gold win in Birmingham, Phogat defeated world bronze medalist Samantha STEWART (CAN) and African champion Mercy ADEKUOROYE (NGR) in Round 1 and Round 2 to all but confirm the gold in the morning session.

She pinned Stewart and almost pinned Adekuoroye but the Nigerian was in danger position for close to two minutes and lost 6-0.

"It's a good confidence-boosting win for me," Phogat said. "Canada and Nigeria do pose a challenge in this tournament but thankfully I managed to win here."

Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR)Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) celebrates after winning the 50kg gold medal in Birmingham. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

At 50kg, Madison PARKS (CAN) and Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) were involved in a close battle in the gold medal bout with Parks scoring a stepout when she was put on the activity clock. But Genesis took a 1-1 criteria lead and as the match entered the final minute, it looked like Genesis will hang on for a 1-1 win but hit a lateral drop and secured the fall to win Nigeria's third gold medal in women's wrestling.

As she was trailing, Parks went for a single leg shot but got countered for the pin. She had made a stunning comeback in the semifinals against Pooja GEHLOT (IND). After giving up a six-point lead, Parks slowly worked her way with takedowns and made it 6-4. She scored a takedown with nine seconds remaining on the clock. Gehlot, hoping to keep her one-point lead, moved away but Parks sprung to action and hit a huge underhook for four to win 9-6.

Genesis was the third gold medalist for Nigeria after Odunayo ADEKUOROYE (NGR) and Blessing OBORUDUDU (NGR) won the gold at 57kg and 68kg respectively.

Justina DI STASIO (CAN)Justina DI STASIO (CAN) hit a four against Hannah RUEBEN (NGR) in the 76kg final. (Photo: UWW / Helena Curtis)

The final gold of the night went to former world champion Justina DI STASIO (CAN) who defeated Hannah RUEBEN (NGR), 4-2, in the final to capture her first Commonwealth Games gold.

Her's was the only big move of the final as she hit a four-pointer against Rueben who managed to score only two points.

Earlier in May, Di Stasio made a comeback to the sport after two years and managed to win a bronze medal. But with ambitions of winning the World Championships gold as she did in 2018, Di Stasio got a big shot in the arm with the gold in Birmingham.



GOLD: Ravi KUMAR (IND) df. Ebikewenimo WELSON (NGR), 10-0

BRONZE: Asad ALI (PAK) df. Suraj SINGH (NZL), 11-0 
BRONZE: Darthe CAPELLAN (CAN) df. Jakobo TAU (RSA), 12-2 

GOLD: NAVEEN (IND) df. Muhammad TAHIR (PAK), 9-0

BRONZE: Jasmit PHULKA (CAN) df. Cole HAWKINS (NZL), 10-0
BRONZE: Ogbonna JOHN (NGR) df. Charlie BOWLING (ENG), 10-0

GOLD: Nishan RANDHAWA (CAN) df. Nicolaas DE LANGE (RSA), 9-3

BRONZE: Thomas BARNS (AUS) df. Maulalo ALOFIPO (SAM), 12-0
BRONZE: Deepak NEHRA (IND) df. Tayab RAZA (PAK), 10-2

Women’s Wrestling

GOLD: Miesinnei GENESIS (NGR) df. Madison PARKS (CAN), via fall

BRONZE: Pooja GEHLOT (IND) df. Christelle LETCHIDJIO (SCO), 12-2


Key bout: Vinesh PHOGAT (IND) df. Samantha STEWART (CAN), via fall

GOLD: Justina DI STASIO (CAN) df. Hannah RUEBEN (NGR), 4-2

BRONZE: Pooja SIHAG (IND) df. Naomi DE BRUINE (AUS), 10-0
BRONZE: Georgina NELTHORPE (ENG) df. Madusu KOROMA (SLE), via fall