London: India’s wrestling campaign in the London Games is going the boxing way, bordering on scoring controversies. Coach Yashvir Singh has complained of cheating after Amit Kumar lost his 55 kg freestyle quarterfinal bout against Georgia’s Vladimer Khinchegashvili 4-0, 3-1 in a contest where the Indian looked in control. Later, Kumar lost his repechage round against Bulgarian Marinov Velikov, in his third Olympics.
The 18-year-old Kumar, the baby of the Indian wrestling contingent, won a close pre-quarterfinal match against Hassan Sabzali Rahami of Iran on points but lost to Khinchegashvili much to the chagrin of the Indian bench at the ExCel Arena on Friday afternoon.
Kumar won an advantage after the first round ended scoreless. The Sonepat lad, in his maiden Olympics, did well to lock Khinchegashvili’s knee and pull him down, but it did not impress the judges. The Georgian was awarded three points and the Indian camp was furious.
The decision to award the points to Khinchegashvili was challenged and after TV replays, the Indian protest was rejected. After the protest was overruled, the Indian lad was docked another point. That 4-0 lead crushed Kumar’s morale.
“My pehelwan (wrestler) lost it there. It was a decision that hit him badly. Amit is young and was looking for a break. We all felt he had won the round, but the scorers cheated us. This was grossly unfair,” Singh said.
Singh, who also coaches India’s star wrestler Sushil Kumar, however lauded Kumar’s performance. “Considering this is his first big stage, Amit has done well. With experience he will definitely do much better than this. He was unlucky today. The wrong decision upset his rhythm,” he said.
The 21-year-old Khinchegashvili, however, did Kumar a favour by making it to the final of the 55kg category. Kumar was put in the repechage round, a consolation one for wrestlers who have lost to either of the two finalists. Kumar at least had a chance to win a bronze medal.
But 29-year-old Bulgarian Velikov proved to be a tough nut to crack. The Beijing Games bronze medallist defeated Kumar in a tactical fight. After both rounds ended 0-0, Velikov converted a “clinch” (advantage) to covert the first round and then won the next on identical lines.
The second Indian on show on Friday, Narsingh Pancham Yadav lost his 74 kg freestyle pre-quarterfinal match against Mathew Judah Gentry of Canada 4-1 on points. The 23-year-old Asian champion from Varanasi looked sluggish and failed to put the pressure on the Canadian in a rather defensive fight. The Indian camp had no complaints as Yadav walked away dejectedly avoiding the media.
Any chance of Yadav getting into the repechage round evaporated soon after Gentry lost his quarterfinal match against Jordan Ernest Burroughs of the United States.