Bajrang Punia: Olympics isn’t an opportunity you always get

Vinesh Phogat to train in Norway separately for the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier.

By Olympic Channel Writer ·

India’s world no.2 wrestler in the 65kg weight category Bajrang Punia is eyeing to improve every aspect of his wrestling ahead of the 2020 Olympics in the upcoming tournaments.

Keeping an eye on the chances of improving his seeding at the Olympic Games, Bajrang Punia’s Georgian coach Shako Bentinidis has listed Dan Kolov-Nikola Petrov tournament, the Canada Cup and the Ranking Series in Poland as the next potential tournaments for the Indian wrestler.

“There are a couple of tournaments before the Olympics, so I will be working on these weaknesses, make sure I don't repeat my mistakes and try to improve both my attack and defence,” Bajrang Punia said.

“Olympics is not an opportunity that you always get," he pointed out.

Focussing on leg defence

Wrestling in mud during his earlier days, like most Indian wrestlers, Bajrang Punia was required to lean forward for a better grip of his opponent. But with it comes a downside - it keeps his leg completely exposed.

Japan’s Takuto Otoguro, who defeated Bajrang Punia to win the gold medal at the Asian Wrestling Championships in New Delhi, has been aware of this weakness. The Japanese grappler had also used that to his advantage when he defeated the 26-year-old Indian wrestler at the 2018 World Championships.

However, Bajrang Punia says he has been giving away lesser points through his vulnerable defence of late and is working on improving it before he steps on the Olympic mat in Tokyo, in July later this year.

Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia is working on getting back in shape. Photo: JSW Sports

"I used to give away points due to (poor) leg defence. I will play two to three tournaments to prepare for the Olympics. I am working on both attack and defence. 

“Olympics 2020 is our focus, so I am working on all the areas," said Bajrang Punia 

Overseas training camp shelved

Meanwhile, the increase in coronavirus cases around the world has prompted the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to cancel the Indian women wrestlers’ training camp, which was scheduled to be held in Kiev in Ukraine.

India’s top women grapplers of the Olympic weight categories, led by Vinesh Phogat, were supposed to train in Ukraine for two weeks ahead of the Asian Olympic Games Qualifier. However, after family members of the wrestlers raised concerns, the national federation has found an alternative.

“The women wrestlers will now train in Lucknow... Vinesh has decided to train in Norway along with her foreign coach,” WFI assistant secretary Vinod Tomar told The Indian Express.

Apart from Vinesh Phogat, the other women grapplers preparing for the Olympic qualification event are Nirmala (50kg), Anshu Malik (57kg), Sonam Malik (62kg), Divya Kakran (68kg) and Kiran (76kg).

The recent development has also led to the Sports Authority of India raising questions over the training camp of the men’s freestyle wrestlers, which is slated to be held in Makhachkala, Russia.