Issue :   
September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.         September 2018 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:August' 2018


Changing the gloomy mood


Bajrang Punia India was mourning the loss of three of its leaders – DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi, former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee and former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee – and doing all it could to help the state of Kerala to cope with the crisis caused by the heaviest rains there in almost a century as our athletes flew into Indonesia for the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta and Palembang. Life, as they say, has to move on. Changing the gloomy mood was the news of Bajrang Punia winning the wrestling gold medal in the 65kg category, defeating his Japanese rival Daichi Takatani 11-8 in the final.
The 24-year-old Haryanvi is one of the few Indian wrestlers with gold medals in the world championships, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in his growing collection.

So authentic was his superiority at Jakarta that on his way to the final he won his bouts on technical superiority. Punia trounced Uzbekistan’s Sirojuddin Khasanov, 13-3, Tajikistan’s Fayzieve Abdulqasim, 12-2, and Mongolia’s Batmagnai, 10-0, before taking on Takatani in the gold medal bout. “I dedicate this gold medal to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee,” Punia said after his triumph which came soon after Vajpayee’s ashes were strewn into the River Ganga at Haridwar by his foster daughter Namita. It was a perfectly timed gesture.

Speaking to a Delhi reporter, Punia regretted there was little urban support for wrestling, though good facilities for training were available in Delhi. Wrestling gets overshadowed by other sports in the cities. Born in Jhajjar, Bajrang is familiar with the ways of people in big metropolitan centres like Delhi, which is next door to Haryana. You can’t train on fast food. “Pizza-burger khayenge to kaise chalega, he says to drive home his point.
If Punia’s gold medal dispelled the gloomy mood back home, later in the day a female from the now famous Phogat clan of Haryana, Vinesh, turned it into a celebratory one by winning the 56kg gold medal. For Vinesh Phogat it was all the more satisfying because it it came at the expense of Sun Yanan, the same Chinese opponent to whom she lost at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Writing on the second day of the Aug.18-Sept.2 games this writer also has to record some failures. The defeats of India’s men and women in the badminton team event to Indonesia and Japan, respectively, and the kabaddi team’s loss to Korea readily come to mind, not to mention the forgettable outings of Sandeep Tomar (57kg), Pawan Kumar (86kg) and Mausam Khatri (97kg).
But the most embarrassing blows on the mat were the first round exit of two-time Olympic medal winner Sushil Kumar and Sakshi Malik. The exemption of Sushil Kumar from the pre-Asian Games trials, it will be recalled, had led to a furore in wrestling circles. Sushil, 35, winner of a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a silver in 2012 at the London Olympics, is not growing any younger. But he hopes to be there at the 2020 Olympics at Tokyo for one last attempt at glory. India had returned from the 2014 Asian Games with 57 medals (11 gold, 9 silver and 34 bronze), with track and field athletes and shooters contributing largely to the tally. India looks forward to seeing its contingent at Jakarta bettering the Guangzhou record.

Talent of the new

India U-20 football team India’s young generation of footballers have the country that there is no lack of talent at the junior levels. While the under-20 boys scored an impressive win over six-time FIFA U-20 World Cup winners Argentina in the COTIF Cup in Spain, the under-16 boys got the better of current Asian U-16 champions Iraq in the WAFF U-16 Championship in Amman. The Argentine team may not have been a full strength one, with four of their top players denied permission to join their U- 20 team due to club obligations, and two star players were rested as Argentina had already won three group ties and qualified for the semi-finals. Nevertheless, the 10-boy Indian team showed they had it in them to beat any team, after they held World Cup runners-up Venezuela to a draw.

Assam runner in focus

Hima Das Athletics find Hima Das not only overcame all challenge on her way to gold in the 400 metres at the IAAF World U-20 Championships in Finland, becoming the only Indian to win a track and field gold in a global event, she has also signed a multi-crore contract with sports management firm IOS to manage her brand endorsements, off-field engagements and investments. This is good news indeed for the Assam girl, who believes she can now stay focussed on training and winning more races. Once on the track, all she thinks of running fast, she was reported to have said. Experts like Shriram Singh are of the opinion that Hima has it in her to making her presence felt in the senior circuit too.