Blog by: Suryakant Tripathi.
Indian wrestler Sandeep Tomar struggled till the dying seconds but could not overpower the former world champion and current World No. 7 Viktor Lebedev from Russia in his Rio 2016 campaign opener, on Friday.
On a fateful day for Indian wrestling which saw the premature elimination of one of our greatest medal prospects Narsingh Pancham Yadav due to a a four-year ban for doping, merely 14 hours ahead of his first bout in Rio, the reiging Asian champion Sandeep Tomar took on two-time World Champion Viktor Lebedev in the Round of 16 of Men’s 57 kg Freestyle Wrestling.
The two wrestlers were vying for to book a place in the quarter-final where they would meet the winner from the other elimination fixture between Garnik Mnatsakanyan of Armenia and Sabzali Hassan Rahimi of Iran. According to experts, in comparison to the highly accomplished 28-year-old Lebedev who’d won Bronze in the 2015 Las Vegas World Championships as well, Sandeep was the clear underdog as he stepped out into the centre of Rio de Janeiro’s Carioca Arena 2, today.
Sandeep was fighting from the blue corner as Viktor Lebedev, in red, shielded himself as soon as the referee’s whistle signalled the beginning of the contest. While the 25-year-old Indian showed more intent in the first minute, Viktor’s defence proved too solid for him to penetrate, and led to the first passivity warning being given to Sandeep himself. Failure to score from the 30-second penalty window despite a couple of audacious lunges at Lebedev’s feet got the Russian off the mark with a solitary point.
In the last minute before half-time, Lebedev capitalised on another opening, reversing Sandeep’s sudden takedown attempt to stretch the scoreline to 3-0.
In the 2nd period, the Russian picked up from right where he’d left things before the interval, forcing Sandeep out of bounds to move 5-0 ahead. However, the Uttar Pradesh-born refused to let go as we headed into the last 2 minutes, and picked up successive attacking scores to reduce the deficit to 5-3.
Yet, Lebedev’s experience denied Sandeep a late comeback as he took another couple to close things off at 7-3. Following Sandeep’s elimination, Lebedov lost in the quarter-finals to dash India’s hopes of a bronze medal through Repechage.