Indian grappler Yogeshwar Dutt wins bronze

London: Yogeshwar Dutt put up a brilliant display of power-packed freestyle wrestling in the Olympic Games and won a bronze medal at the ExCel Arena to give a late spark to India`s campaign here on Saturday.

The 29-year-old experienced grappler from Sonepat in the north Indian state of Haryana showed tremendous fighting spirit and exhibited excellent technique against three very strong rivals in the repechage rounds to clinch India`s fifth medal of the Games.

Dutt clinched the bronze as he staged a brilliant rally after losing the opening round to North Korea`s Jong Myong Ri on his way to recording an emphatic 3-1 victory in the 60kg freestyle play-off.

It was India`s third wrestling medal at the Olympics after Kashaba Jadhav`s bronze in the 1952 Helsinki Games and a similar feat by Sushil Kumar four years ago in Beijing.

Dutt, who had narrowly missed the bronze at Beijing, had to fight five bouts on a single day to clinch the bronze, and his lone loss was against reigning world champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia in the prequarters.

Given a lease of life when the Russian reached the final, Yogeshwar was in his element and fought off the challenge of three strong rivals in the repechage on his way to a bronze.

Yogeshwar started off with a win over World Championship runner-up Franklin Gomez Matos of Puerto Rico and followed it with another brilliant victory over Iran`s Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybari to be one win away from a medal.

The two victories that came within the space of 20 minutes got Yogeshwar`s adrenaline going and he brought off another stupendous come from behind victory over his North Korean rival to fetch the bronze.

Yogeshwar`s stupendous show lit up a gloomy day for India at the Games after its men`s hockey team finished 12th and last in the competition, which ended with a 2-3 loss to South Africa in the classification match, and Basanta Bahadur Rana set a national mark but ended up 36th in 50km race walk on Saturday.

The hockey team`s humiliation was complete after it slumped to its sixth straight loss, five of which had come in the league stage.

The floundering men`s hockey team was beaten 3-2 by South Africa in the 11-12th classification tie to finish last, which has raised a huge question mark over the future of many players as well as coach Michael Nobbs.

Stunned by the national team`s total annihilation and abject surrender, Hockey India swung into action and ordered an internal inquiry. But HI secretary general, Narinder Batra, while taking full responsibility, refused to pinpoint any particular individual for the humiliation.

The internal reports of Nobbs, the team manager and physiotherapist would be submitted to Hockey India within 10 days and HI`s response would be known within a month, according to Batra.

Elsewhere, on the roads of London, Rana clocked a new national best of 3 minutes, 56 minutes and 48 seconds but ended up way behind.

The 28-year-old Indian walker was no match for his strong opponents but did well to improve upon his personal best and season best timing of 4:02:13 under bright and sunny conditions.

But topping the tale of woes for India was again the hockey team. India suffered an unprecedented whitewash by losing all the matches they played here, including five pool games earlier.

The sorry saga of six successive defeats, thus, drew curtains to India`s painful journey in the Games.

India`s wayward shooting and the strikers` inability to convert repeated raids into goals or penalty corners continued to be the story of the ongoing Games.

Andrew Cronje (8th minute), Timothy Drummond (34th) and Lloyd Norris-Jones (66th) scored for South Africa, while India`s goals came from Sandeep Singh (14th) and Dharamvir Singh (67th).

Barring the failure to even qualify for the Games four years ago, the country, which had made waves in field hockey at these Games in the distant past by winning eight gold medals, including six on the trot between 1928 and 1956, plunged to its worst-ever show in the biggest sporting spectacle.