Deepak Punia beats Pakistan’s defending champion Inam to clinch CWG gold


India’s Deepak Punia won a gold medal on Day 8 of the 2022 Commonwealth Games, as he defeated Muhammad Inam of Pakistan 3-0 in the final of the men’s 86kg freestyle on Saturday. This is Punia’s first medal at the Commonwealth Games, as he takes India’s overall medal tally to 24. Additionally, this is India’s 9th gold medal in the ongoing edition of the Games. Earlier, Bajrang Punia (men’s 65kg) and Sakshi Malik (women’s 62kg) won a gold medal as well, while Anshu Malik (women’s 57kg) got a silver.

Inam, the defending champion in the category, was far from his best throughout the final bout against Punia as he was booked for passivity early before the Indian successfully pushed his opponent out of the ring to take a 2-0 lead. Both wrestlers were largely defensive in the bout but Inam did make a last effort to make a comeback despite clearly gasping for breath, only for Punia to easily thwart the same and get on top of him.

Earlier, Punia began his campaign at the Games with a fairly straightforward win by technical superiority against New Zealand’s Matthew Oxenham in the 1/8 game, and followed it up with another similar victory against Sheku Kassegbama of Sierra Leone in the quarter-final. However, the Indian 23-year-old faced a stiff competition against Canada’s Alexander Moore for a final spot.

It was a slow start by Punia and Moore’s defensive approach cost the latter a point, which remained the only difference between both wrestlers in the first round. Moore’s footwork didn’t allow Punia to launch into attack and the Indian wrestler decided to play the waiting game after gaining the lead. In the second round, however, Punia sprung into attack and forced Moore out of the ring to gain two more points before the Canadian pulled one back.

It was too little, too late for Moore, though, as the Indian wrestler eventually booked a place in the final.

Punia shot into limelight in 2019 when he had clinched India’s only silver medal at the 2019 World Championships in Nur-Sultan. A 2019 World Junior champion in the 86kg category, Punia successfully followed his age-group domination in senior years, clinching two Asian Championships silver (Almaty 2021, Ulaanbaatar 2022), as well as two bronze medals (Xi’an 2019, Delhi 2020).