Commonwealth Games 2022: Forged in Akhadas, Deepak Punia turns Tokyo heartbreak into Gold

Deepak Punia AP

23-year-old Deepak Punia defeated Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam to win his first ever Gold medal in the Commonwealth Games. Punia, dethroned the reigning champion and 2-time CWG Gold medallist Muhammad Inam, the favourite for the Gold medal.

Punia, who lost his bronze medal match in the final seconds of the bout in the Tokyo Olympics, found redemption by clinching the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games 2022, on 5 August, Friday. Memories of the last Olympics rushed in, when defending a lead of 2-1 in the medal match, the Olympic debutant saw his luck turn upside down, losing 4-2 on one of the most important days of his life.

The Tokyo Olympics had succeeded his bad luck in the World Championships where he had to pull out of the Gold medal match to save himself from aggravating an injury to his left hand. However, brushing that aside, Punia looked like a tremendously driven person, going out to make his own luck on the mat today.

But who exactly is Deepak Punia?

Punia started to make a name for himself at a very early age, defeating wrestlers in his local tournament, who were much above his weight class. Destined for greatness at an early age, Punia showed incredible heart to play at the World Championship despite an injury. Advised by the doctor to get operated on by skipping the Championship, Punia pressed on and reached the finals after a stunning showing.

On the night, Punia was up against a veteran of the sport, Muhammad Inam Butt, a two-time gold medallist in the Commonwealth Games. A pretty straightforward bout from the start, Punia used his age advantage to good effect, tiring the veteran out. Punia’s defence stood out in the ring, as the Pakistan wrestler failed to take him down even once.

Punia was so assertive with his defence that Inam was fined with points for his passivity. From there it was just about Punia asserting himself in the ring and winning the match. The medal is indeed his redemption in the international stage after losing out on two occasions, once due to injury, and once due to sheer bad luck.

At 23, the world is Deepak’s oyster, and who knows how high the ceiling is for that little kid who was demolishing people for fun in the small villages of Haryana?

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