Bajrang Punia moves on, eyes world championship gold
Jakarta Asian Games gold medallist Bajrang Punia, who had slammed the ‘flawed’ selection criteria after being denied the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, has decided to focus on his training and leave the rest to destiny.
With the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest four weeks away, the grappler who kick-started India’s gold rush at the recently concluded Asian Games¸ said he has decided to pack his bags and fly to Belarus on an exposure tour early next week.
“There are better facilities and sparring partners (in Belarus). I have decided to take a flight on Monday,” said Bajrang on the sidelines of a felicitation function on Saturday.
Earlier this week, the Haryana grappler, peeved at not being considered for the Khel Ratna, had threatened to go to court to highlight the flaws in the points system. He also met Sports Minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on Thursday but later realising the futility of the exercise, decided to concentrate on his career.
Though the minister has assured him that he will look into the matter, it is unlikely that Bajrang’s name will be included this year.
“I have decided not to approach the court. My mentor and coach Yogeshwar Dutt and family members have advised me to train hard and win a medal in Budapest,” said the Arjuna Awardee. “That’s only possible with good training.”
During the 2013 World Championships in Budapest, Bajrang had won bronze in 60kg. He believes the Hungarian capital is lucky for him. “Hopefully, I should do better again,” he said.
Bajrang’s Georgian coach Shako Bentindis will accompany him to Belarus. The coach too was of the opinion that his trainee shouldn’t waste time on off-field issues. “Good training is only beneficial if the athlete is mentally not distracted,” he said. “Bajrang is capable of winning a medal in Budapest provided he stays focused.”
Bentindis recalled how he made Bajrang repeatedly watch videos of his performances before the Asian Games. “I showed Bajrang videos of his Tbilisi Grand Prix success. I made him believe he could do it again in the Asian Games,” he said. On the improvements Bajrang will have to make ahead of the World Championships, the coach said, “Quality attack, rather than just grappling, is important. And that comes with training.”