Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award from Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju at the Sports Authority of India (SAI) headquarters on Thursday.
Bajrang, who has already secured a berth at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in the 65 kg freestyle wrestling category, was unavailable to receive the award from the President of India Ram Nath Kovind on National Sports Day.
Along with a citation, Punia was felicitated with a cash prize of Rs. 32 lakh and 70 thousand.”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 in an interaction after receiving the award.
The 25-year-old grappler said the tear in his right elbow has completely healed, allowing him to resume full-fledged training.”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.”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.”
“People will say that Bajrang’s wrestling style is now very different. Whether it is technique, stamina, style, everything is being worked upon.”