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Youngsters confirm ascendancy of Indian wrestling

Thursday, 26 December 2013 - 1:11pm IST | Place: New Delhi | Agency: PTI

Youngsters Amit Kumar, Bajrang and Sandeep Yadav scripted India's best ever show in the World Championship in the absence of Olympic stars in an eventful year, during which the ancient sport successfully fought off its Olympic exclusion.

Olympic medallists Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt preferred to stay on the sidelines owing to their respective shoulder and knee injuries.

But fans didn't miss their superstars in the World Championships in Budapest as the trio of Amit, Bajrang and Sandeep put on a stellar show at the annual marquee event to assure that the Indian wrestling was in safe hands.

Twenty-year-old Amit, the youngest Indian wrestler to compete at London Olympics, stormed into the finals of the worlds in September. But the diminutive Indian ran out of luck and had to settle for silver in an excruciatingly close bout of the 55kg division.

On the other hand, 60kg freestyle grappler Bajrang, who got the opportunity to represent India at world championships in place of his mentor Yogeshwar, did the country proud by securing a bronze medal.

While India's growing reputation in freestyle section was well known, 25-year-old Sandeep surprised many when he claimed bronze in the 66kg category of the traditional format of wrestling, the Greco Roman style.

India’s previous best performance was a fifth place finish which had come way back in 2001 through Mukesh Khatri at the World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

The Mumbai-based wrestler etched his name in history when he defeated Aleksandar Maksimovic from Serbia in a play-off for a podium finish.

The ground for this stellar performance by the Indian men was set up during the Senior Asian Championship where the hosts claimed the coveted freestyle team title ahead of heavyweights Iran and South Korea.

Amit Kumar sizzled in front of a capacity home crowd at the Indira Gandhi Indoor stadium by bagging gold in his weight category. Amit Kumar Dhankar, who was filling in for Sushil, also won the 66kg title as India claimed four medals in freestyle format, including two bronze by Bajrang and Hitender.

If India experienced a bright year, the sport was thrown into a tizzy after it was set aside from the Olympic movement. In February, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) axed wrestling, citing the need for overhaul in game's governance.

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