Wrestler Bajrang Punia has been amplifying SOS messages on his social media platforms, to inspire people to help each other. (PHOTO: Vipin Kumar/HT)
Wrestler Bajrang Punia has been amplifying SOS messages on his social media platforms, to inspire people to help each other. (PHOTO: Vipin Kumar/HT)

Bajrang returns to social media: If I can help people, will consider myself blessed

Haryana-born wrestler Bajrang Punia, who is prepping for Tokyo Olympics, talks about using social media to help those battling Covid crisis. He feels “the Olympics will happen again in four years, but life is most important”.
By Mallika Bhagat, New Delhi
UPDATED ON MAY 26, 2021 05:02 PM IST

“No one had expected the pandemic to take a turn for the worse, in this second wave. While I’ll respect the International Olympic Committee’s decision, as a player I would want the Olympics to happen and we are preparing for it in full force,” says Padma Shri Bajrang Punia, who is currently training at JSW sports training centre in Karnataka’s Bellary.

This March, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee wrestler had taken a break from social media to prepare for Olympics, but the second wave of Covid-19 made him return to the platform. “Even if I can help 10 people through my platform, I will consider myself blessed. The citizens of this country have given me immense love... I am only trying to inspire people to help each other,” says the Haryana born grappler, who has been using social media to amplify SOS messages, find beds for those in need and spread awareness about Covid-19.

“The Olympics will happen again in four years, but life is most important. So I am trying to do my best for others,” shares the 27-year-old, who has recently recovered from an elbow injury that he sustained at the 2021 Asian Wrestling Championships held in Almaty, Kazakhstan in April. A three times World championship medallist, Punia is back on the mat now. “My coach did not want me to stress myself out right before the Olympics. So I had to pull out of the summit clash and settle for a silver medal in Kazakhstan. But I have got better, and resumed my training on the mat. For over a year, I practised at home but wrestling is a contact sport and I haven’t been able to play in many tournaments. And being at home presented the problem of not having a sparring partner,” he adds.

Putting limitations of the present circumstances aside, Punia says he’s preparing his beast mode for the Tokyo Games! He opines, “Vaise tournaments mein apni training ka actual pata chalta hai, ki hum kahan galti kar rahe hain aur kahan improvement chahiye (We get to know about our mistakes and strong points when we participate in tournaments). But even in their absence, I’m still trying to be my personal best.” And guess who is his biggest supporter in these tough times? None other that his wife and wrestler Sangeeta Phogat, who he married in a low-key ceremony in November 2020. “It’s great to be married to a fellow wrestler. Whenever I feel I’m making a mistake or not training properly, we sit down, have a discussion and analyse my practice. It’s great that she understands and loves the sport as much as I do,” he adds.

Punia says he does feel the pressure of representing the country at the Olympics, and shares that he is soon going to Poland for a training camp and ranking series tournament, and trying to not let any of that overtake his mind. “There is a pressure of winning a medal, but when I will step on the mat in Tokyo, I will be completely focussed. I hope to fulfil my country’s expectations of a medal this year,” he signs off.

Author tweets @bhagat_mallika

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