CWG 2022: Bajrang Punia wins gold in men's freestyle 65kg wrestling

(L-R) Silver medalist Lachlan McNeil of Canada, Gold medalist Bajrang Punia and Bronze medalists Inayat Ullah of Pakistan and George Ramm of England (65kg men's freestyle wrestling) Al Bello/Getty Images

Bajrang Punia defended his Commonwealth Games title in style as he beat Canada's Lachlan McNeil to win gold in the men's 65kg at the ongoing 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Friday. Bajrang, who is India's first-ever three-time world medalist, was the undoubted favourite for the title here and went about his business to pick up his second gold on the trot.

McNeil was put on the passivity clock a minute into the bout and Bajrang was awarded a passivity point 30 seconds later. The Indian followed it up with a brilliant takedown to take a 3-0 lead. Bajrang went for another takedown with 30 seconds left in the first period and got hold of McNeil's leg, but couldn't get the takedown and pushed him out of bounds instead for a point.

Bajrang was put in a spot of bother in the second period as McNeil scored a fine takedown to trail 2-4. Bajrang, who seemed to have slowed down a tad bit, sprung into action with a takedown of his own to restore his four-point cushion. Bajrang latched onto McNeil's right leg soon after but was once again unable to seal the takedown and picked up a point. The Indian enforced another takedown in the dying seconds to win by a comfortable 9-2 margin.

Earlier, the defending champion earned a comprehensive win, via fall, over Mauritius' Jean Guyliane Joris Bandou to move into the semifinal. Prior to that, Bajrang had begun his campaign with a thumping win over Nauru's Lowe Bingham, wrapping up the victory by pinning his opponent.

Among India's finest wrestlers, Bajrang finished with a bronze at the Tokyo Olympics while battling a knee injury. After a long recovery process and a change in coaching personnel - he let go of his Georgian coach Shako and now trains with Sujeet Mann - and trained in Moscow at the start of the year.

He returned to the Asian Championships in Mongolia this year. He appeared to have slowed down, was overly defensive, and lost to Iran's Rahman Amouzad to bag the silver. A two-time Asian champion, he then headed for a training stint in the USA, before competing in the Bolat Turlykhanov Cup in Kazakhstan in June. He lost to Uzbekistan's Bekzod Abdurakhmonov in the quarterfinal to finish with a bronze.