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…