A file photo of Bajrang Punia.(AP)
A file photo of Bajrang Punia.(AP)

Bajrang to miss ranking tournament in Poland, opts for training in Russia

A weak leg defence and conceding early points has been a bane for him but Bajrang said he has worked hard to improve on both counts.
PTI | , New Delhi
PUBLISHED ON MAY 29, 2021 06:27 PM IST

India's top wrestler Bajrang Punia will not compete in the upcoming Ranking Series event in Poland, saying more than ranking points he desperately needs mat-training with strong sparring partners ahead of the Tokyo Olympics since the 65kg category is loaded with top performers.

The 27-year-old said the pandemic has adversely impacted his training schedule because neither he could travel abroad nor anyone could be invited to India for practice.

While India's other Olympic-bound wrestlers will travel to Poland, Bajrang will travel to Russia.

"Before Olympics, I need more training. The last 18 months have been tough. There were neither competitions nor training camps outside. It became a huge challenge to get sparring partners. Staying fit was also a challenge," Bajrang said during an interaction facilitated by the Sports Authority of India.

"In my category, there are 10-12 wrestlers and each of them is capable of beating anyone. There is no one wrestler who is favourite in 65kg. I can't prepare for one particular rival, what If I don't get him in the draw.

"So I need to focus on my training, so I have planned this Russia trip. I am awaiting my visa. There will be a lot of strong wrestlers there in Russia, including world and Olympic champions."

A weak leg defence and conceding early points has been a bane for him but Bajrang said he has worked hard to improve on both counts.

His immense power and stamina always give him an edge over his rivals.

"My coaches say I end up wasting a lot of power in that point recovery process, so I now try not to concede those early points. My training has been such since my early days that my game has become power-oriented. But still, I have worked on my leg defence and it has got better," he said.

Bajrang said he is in favour of Tokyo Olympics going ahead as scheduled even as there is a growing chorus for the Games to be cancelled amidst the pandemic.

"As an athlete I want the Olympics to go ahead. No player will say that he wants Olympic Games to be cancelled."

India will field a strong eight-member contingent at the Tokyo Games and Bajrang exuded confidence that the country will get at least four medals.

Bajrang said though support to athletes has got much better since 2016 but more needs to be done at the grassroot level.

"We always talk about Olympic medals but we need to support athletes in their junior days. If facilities and support is given to athletes from an early age, then India will also be a strong Olympic nation like US," he said.

Answering a different question, Bajrang said till 2005 he did not even know about the Olympic Games.

"As I made progress, step by step, my horizon got broad. The goals got bigger, from national to international and then I started thinking about the Olympics. Till 2005 I did not even know about the Games. I did not know to follow much. I just loved the 'Dangals'," he said.

Bajrang said getting a foreign coach has helped him as earlier he had struggled to get strong partners when in abroad due to the language barrier but since the arrival of Shako Bentinidis, things have become easier.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.
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