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Asian Games 2018 gold opens doors for 2020 Olympic medal: Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia, India’s first gold medallist at the Asian Games 2018 on Sunday, believes he can kick on from his gold medal winning performance and do well in the Tokyo Olympics.

asian games 2018 Updated: Aug 19, 2018 23:23 IST
Sharad Deep
Sharad Deep
Hindustan Times, Jakarta
Asian Games 2018,Bajrang Punia,Punia wrestling
India's Bajrang Punia poses with his gold medal after winning in the Finals of men's freestyle wrestling (65kg) against Japan's Daichi Takatani at the Asian Games 2018. (PTI)

Emotions ran high as Bajrang Punia, India’s first gold medallist at the Asian Games on Sunday, dedicated his medal to former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, who breathed his last after a prolonged illness last week.

“I want to dedicate this medal to former PM Vajpayee ji,” Bajrang said after winning 11-8 against Japanese rival Takatani Daichi.

Bajrang also said speaking to his ‘guru’ and Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt before the final bout helped. “He (Yogeshwar) told me that I had won it in 2014 and you will have to win it this time. A 28-year gap for a wrestling gold (before Yogeshwar broke the jinx) is long. He had also advised to remain focus to the event,” he said.

“After my loss to Daichi in the past, I saw his videos and drafted my own techniques to handle him in the crunch situation. You can’t say anything in wrestling. I was leading, then he equalised. Such things keep happening, and if you keep thinking too much on how the bout is progressing you might lose the grip on the game. Try to give 100% in the bout.”

ALSO READ: Bajrang Punia wins gold in 65 kg wrestling, emulates mentor Yogeshwar Dutt

Bajrang said he never felt under pressure during his final bout. “I don’t take pressure, and I did the same thing today too. I went out to fight in the middle and didn’t think anything else.”

“I am doing my job people will say what they want to. I don’t pay heed to what people say. I haven’t changed and I am what I used to be. I will dance when I want to, I will not dance when people want me to,” he said, adding, “The celebrations won’t last long as soon after returning home I will get down to prepare for the World Championships.”

“Certainly, it’s a big medal to me. If you win a medal at the Asian Games you become a serious contender for the Olympics and I am already preparing for Tokyo. I am working hard and will try and repeat my performance at the World Championship.”

He also praised foreign coach Shako (Emzar Bedineishvili) who brought about a lot of change in his technique that everyone has taken note of. “When people start expecting from you then it’s your duty to perform well.”

First Published: Aug 19, 2018 22:36 IST