“The Youngest” is all set to challenge “The Greatest” for the 86kg Men’s Freestyle gold in the UWW World Wrestling Championships final in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, tomorrow (Sunday).
Deepak Punia has created history for India by becoming the youngest Indian to reach a UWW World Wrestling Championship final. The 19-year-old grappler will be eyeing India’s first gold since Sushil Kumar had accomplished the feat in 2010.
The last hurdle between Deepak Punia and the gold tomorrow, Hassan “The Greatest” Yazdanicharati of Iran enjoys a superior form, reputation, successful run and proven success at the world level.
But, Punia’s journey to the final has established him as the wrestler to look forward to for big surprises. At Punia’s age, now the 25-year-old Yazdanicharati had no significant achievement, leave alone a World Championship finals appearance.
That will give a lots of confidence to The Youngest who is all set to challenge The Greatest. Punia’s confidence can be gauged in his reaction after the semi-final. “I was always confident that I will win a medal and qualify (for Olympics) here. It’s good that I could finish (the qualifying task) here,” he said. “I had trained hard and won the junior world championship. I was always confident.”
The 2016 Olympic Champion and the 2017 World Champion, Yazdanicharati had continued his golden run with the Jakarta Asian Games crown last year – to justify his tag of “The Greatest”.
Hassan “The Greatest” Yazdanicharati is one of the sport’s brightest stars. Without Taylor, the man who handed him two of his four senior-level losses, the Iranian is the clear favourite in his weight category this year. He had landed in Nur-Sultan searching for his fifth straight World or Olympic medal. His resume includes a World and Olympic title, and a silver and bronze medal finish at the UWW World Championships, besides a gold each a the Asian Game and the Asian Championships.
The 19-year-old Punia is out to create history as “The Youngest”. Pressure will all be on the Iranian as the Indian teen is already an achiever. But Punia is not the one to sit on these laurels. He has stunned the wrestling world by making it to the finals with a convincing 8-2 win over Stefan Reichmuth of Switzerland. He had earlier dashed hopes of Adult Davlumbayev, the local wrestler from Kazakhstan and then easily got pass Bakhodur Kodirov of Tajikistan to enter quarter-finals. In the quarter-finals Punia showed brilliant composure to beat Carlos MENDEZ of Colombia in the dying seconds to book Tokyo 2020 Olympics ticket and shot at world championship medal.
This amazing boy from Haryana has won almost everything that is to be won in the Junior ranks and now rightfully is gunning for the gold at the senior World Wrestling Championships 2019.
His Junior World Wrestling achievements include a gold and a silver apiece. Punia had recently won gold at the Junior World Championships in Talinn, Estonia, defeating Russia’s Alik Shebzukov for the 86kg freestyle title. The achievement had followed the silver he won in the category in 2018 in Slovakia.
Punia is the first Indian in 18 years to win a Junior World Championship title. Deepak had also won the Cadet World Championship in 2016 and missed out on a bronze in the junior worlds in 2017.
The boy knows the basics of winning World Championship titles. The world should be well prepared for a big upset tomorrow, when The Youngest will be out take a slice of greatness from The Greatest.
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