Bajrang Punia dismisses report of sacking personal coach
Dismissing the report that he has sacked his personal coach Shako Bentinidis, star wrestler Bajrang Punia on Friday said the Georgian is very much in his team and he has no plans to make any change to his support staff.
It has been reported that Bajrang, the only Indian to win three World Championship medals, has parted ways with Bentinidis.
“I fail to understand who has said this and why? Shako is my coach and I should have been asked about it. I really felt bad after reading that frivolous report. There is no truth in it,” said Bajrang reacting to a media report.
“He is my personal coach, arranged by JSW. This is beyond me to understand why it was reported that I have sacked him. Who is saying this and why? I don’t intend to change my coach,” added the world number one wrestler in 65kg.
When contacted, JSW said neither they nor Bajrang at any stage wanted to let go Shako.
“It is very clear to us that if Bajrang does not want to train with Shako, we will not have him. But neither Bajrang nor the WFI asked us to sack Shako. It’s already been one month that World Championship got over, if we had to take this step, we would have done right after that,” said Manisha Malhotra, Head of Sports Excellence and Scouting, JSW.
The WFI though indeed was not happy with Bentinidis for pressing the protest button when the referee awarded four points to Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov for a throw during his semifinal bout during the Worlds. It had cost Bajrang an extra point which WFI felt robbed the Indian of a place in the final. WFI is also not happy that Bajrang’s leg defense is still very weak.
It has also been learnt that Bentinidis had to even apologise to the WFI in Nur Sultan for taking that protest call.
“I know Federation was not happy with his protest. But look at the bigger picture. Shako has got Bajrang to number one position in the world. He has done something correct with him,” Manisha defended Shako.
“Yes he is abrasive. I agree. But nobody hired him for his personality. If he is getting the job done. It is okay.There is a lot of pressure on Bajrang to win medal at Olympics and so close to Olympics, it’s also not strategically a good move to change coach now at this stage, so there is no plan to change anything.” The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said it has no information on the issue.
“It’s matter related to Bajrang and only he can decide if he wants Shako with him or not. We have not appointed him. We can’t tell wrestlers that you don’t train with so and so coach. We are concerned with the Olympic medal. If somebody does not train, we can force him to train but Bajrang is training and he has freedom to train with the coach of his choice,” WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said.
Shako rejected allegations that he took a bit of appearance money meant for Bajrang without informing him during the ‘Grapple at the Garden — Beat the Streets’ event in New York.
“I am as pure as a source of water,” Bentinidis said from Georgia. “Do you think it is possible for me to call the US Federation and the organisers to say that give me Bajrang’s money?,” he asked.
Both Bajrang and Manisha also backed the Georgian on the issue.
“There is nothing like that,” said Bajrang.
Manisha added, “I have also heard about it. If he did that, it’s very stupid of him because one day it would come out. I don’t think he did that, he is not that stupid.” Bentinidis said they have to quickly forget everything and start preparations for Tokyo.
“I am no longer offended by anyone. I need support to prepare Bajrang for Tokyo. I am sure, by God’s grace, I will achieve my goal,” he said. Bajrang is undergoing rehabilitation for an elbow injury and will resume training with Bentinidis soon.