Wrestler Bajrag Punia has promised to present a new version of himself on the mat come the Tokyo Olympics after having regained full fitness. Bajrang had hurt his elbow while competing at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in Kazakhstan in September.
However, the 25-year-old has been training hard and worked on his technique, stamina and style through which he hopes to surprise his opponents. “My coach says I should be able to surprise my opponents when I compete again. Obviously, I can’t reveal what I am doing but you will see a new Bajrang on the mat when I will compete during the Olympics,” Bajrang told PTI after accepting his Khel Ratna on Thursday.
He added, “People will say that Bajrang’s wrestling style is now very different. Whether it is technique, stamina, style, everything is being worked upon.”
Bajrang’s weak leg defence has been exploited by his opponents in the past which puts him on the backfoot even before the bout has started. Despite being one of India’s strong medal prospects at the Olympics next year, it’s feared that his weakness could be a big stumbling block.
“It’s been just 10 days now that I have re-started mat training after recovering from my elbow injury which I had suffered before the Worlds (in Nur Sultan). Now I am completely fit and doing everything I should be doing. Thankfully I have qualified for the Olympics in the very first qualifying event,” Bajrang said.
Throwing some light on his recovery, he said, “I was away from mat training for some time. The pain was not subsiding and the doctors had warned that it could develop into something serious if I don’t let it heal. I had the time (for rest) now because I could not have taken the risk so close to the Olympics. So, the focus was on physical training and not on mat training.”
After his defeat at the worlds, reports had emerged that Bajrang has sacked his coach Shako Bentinidis but he’s unperturbed. “I have forgotten that. Everything is in past. It was media which played it up. I don’t know who spread that. It was disturbing but the Federation assured me that my needs will be taken care of and Shako is with me only,” he said.
Talking about his schedule, he said, “My first tournament in the new season will be in in January. After Italy, there is Asian Championship and one more ranking series event, but we are yet to fix a definitive schedule.”