Ravi Dahiya has added his name to the list of Indian wrestling greats by assuring himself a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in the most dramatic of fashions on Wednesday.
His sensational performance in the semi-finals against Kazakhstan’s Nurislam Sanayev will be remembered for years as he came back from 2-9 down to earn a victory by fall and reach the gold medal match in men’s 57kg freestyle. The fight he showed on his Olympic debut proved to the world just how special a wrestling talent he is.
He had won both his previous bouts on technical superiority en route the semi-final. Dahiya outclassed Colombia’s Tigreros Urbano (13-2) in his opener and then outwitted Bulgaria’s Georgi Valentinov Vangelov (14-4).
The two-time Asian Championship winner is only the second Indian wrestler to qualify for a gold medal clash at the Olympic Games after Sushil Kumar in 2012.
To those who have seen the 23-year-old come up the ranks, this performance doesn’t come as much of a surprise. In the last couple of years, he has given proof of his talent, the most striking being the bronze medals at his senior debut at the 2019 Wrestling World Championships.
Considered a dark horse ahead of Tokyo 2020, he also came into the event in good form. In April this year, Dahiya returned to the mat after a year with a solid performance to retain his Asian Championship title in Almaty, giving India its first freestyle gold medal at the event. He had last competed at this event in New Delhi where he had won gold.
Considered a darkhorse ahead of Tokyo 2020, he also came into the event in good form. In April this year, Dahiya returned to the mat after a year with a solid performance to retain his Asian Championship title in Almaty, giving India its first freestyle gold medal at the event. He had last competed at this event in New Delhi where he had won gold.
“I had no business conceding that much lead against Sanayev. I am not happy with it,” Dahiya told PTI when asked about his stunning finale.
It just shows the kind of standards the Indian has set for himself.
“I have beaten Sanayev twice before, so I knew I can pull it off despite trailing by a huge margin. I was assured inside, but I should not have conceded lead and made it a close fight. That was pretty bad of me,” he said.
Earlier, he had become the first Indian male wrestler to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics, capping off a memorable senior debut at the World Championships with a bronze medal after a win against Reza Atri of Iran. Before Dahiya’s first appearance at the Worlds, he had won silver at the 2015 junior worlds followed by another silver at the 2018 cadet worlds.
Even back then, he was confident of a medal in Tokyo. “I don’t think anyone can match me in stamina. It’s not just about qualification for Olympics alone, I think I can win a medal,” Dahiya had told Scroll.in in an interview in 2019.