Exclusive: ‘Complete focus on my wrestling profession, coach Shako wasn’t pushed out’ – Bajrang Punia on his comeback after damage, the Olympic bronze & more | More sports News

SONEPAT: August 7, 2021. Bajrang Punia, debilitated and annoyed by his knee damage, was warming up for his 65kg freestyle bronze-medal bout. It was the largest stage of all of them — the Olympics. He had landed in Tokyo nearly on one leg, carrying a knee damage he suffered in Russia barely a month or so earlier than the Games. But his valor had shone by way of in the Japanese capital.
Bajrang, although, misplaced in the semis to Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliyev. Now, it was both an Olympic medal or an agonizing wait of one other three years. With that enjoying on his thoughts, Bajrang nearly determined to place his profession on the line. “Remove the (knee) brace for now, we’ll handle the damage later,” he advised the physio.
Summoning each inch of his power reserves, Bajrang beat Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov 8-0 to win an Olympic bronze medal. But the effort took its toll, on his knees.
For more than six months after that, Bajrang needed to be in rehab mode, and returned solely late final month for the choice trials forward of the Asian Championships starting April 19.
Ahead of his departure for the match in Mongolia, TimesofIndia.com visited the Sports Authority of India centre in Sonepat, the place Bajrang was a part of the nationwide camp for the Indian males’s wrestling crew.
A candid Bajrang sat down for an unique interview with TimesofIndia.com on the sidelines of the area , taking questions on his life on and round the mat, and in addition on what it is wish to be a newly-married man (Bajrang married wrestler Sangeeta Phogat of the famed Phogat wrestling household in November 2020).

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(Photo: Times Internet)
Excerpts…
It’s good to see you again on the mat…
Of course, it is an important feeling. Very completely happy that I will probably be returning to the mat totally ready. Training goes completely fantastic. During the Olympics, the (proper) knee was injured; then later the different one bought injured as effectively. But now I’m totally match and centered on the Asian Championships.
Before Covid shredded the world sports calendar, you had been in high kind. But the Tokyo Olympics had been delayed by a 12 months, you then picked up a knee damage, however nonetheless ended up with a bronze at the Games. How do you see issues from right here on panning out for you?
The kind I used to be in throughout 2018 and since the (knee) damage after that, I’ve seen ups and down in my profession. But I’m coming again to that (kind). This (Asian Championships) goes to be my first worldwide match since the Tokyo Olympics, and I’ll attempt to provide you with my finest efficiency.
Any particular areas of enchancment you’re concentrating on right here at the nationwide camp in Sonepat?
We are working on general enchancment, on all the weak factors in my wrestling, together with leg defence. My leg defence has improved. But the factor is that I’m an attacking wrestler and after I assault, my opponent assaults as effectively. If I play a defensive sport, then I can also save my leg (from getting caught). Every wrestler has his personal fashion, some wrestle on proper leg (ahead), some on left, some on each. My coaches have at all times mentioned ‘assault is the finest defence’. That’s the foundation of my coaching.
How is Bajrang the ‘attacking wrestler’ settling down into married life?
(Laughs) You too perceive that very effectively, you’re additionally married. It would not take any guessing that at residence the ‘residence minister’ is at all times the spouse. It’s a distinct life together with your life associate.

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(Twitter Photo)
With Sangeeta being a wrestler herself, do you each share any frequent objectives?
Of course, we each wish to proceed representing the nation and do effectively. She too is in the India camp presently (for girls wrestlers in Lucknow). Ahead of the Asian Championships, she had a knee damage and underwent three surgical procedures.
Coming again to life on the mat, you at the moment are connected to coach Sujeet Maan, after being with Shako Bendinitis for nearly 4 years. How totally different is it working with an Indian coach?
Indian coaches are usually not inferior in any manner. They too learn about all the points of coaching. That’s why I made a decision to work with an Indian coach now. Sujeet is with me personally and in addition wanting after the camp. Before 2018 additionally I used to be working with an Indian coach. In the camp we have now our chief coach Jagmender, Sujeet Maan, Vinod, Suresh, Balwant. All are good coaches. I’ve good bonding with all of them. It relies upon on how a lot curiosity the participant is prepared to be taught with.
As far as Shako is worried, he was a very good coach. But he had a contract solely till the Tokyo Olympics. When it bought postponed by a 12 months, then Shako’s contract too was prolonged. But it isn’t true that he was pushed out after that. I used to be with Shako for more than 4 years. I benefited the most I may from that affiliation. Now I’m with a brand new coach (Sujeet Maan).
Your return to the mat throughout the choice trials was additionally marred with an issue round you having to undergo rehabilitation with out a physiotherapist…
It was not an issue in any respect. During the choice trials, I used to be requested how my knee damage was and the way I used to be doing my rehab. I replied that I’m doing it on my own, I haven’t got a physio. After the Olympics, I did not have a physio. I requested JSW, they usually mentioned that they cannot give it on to the participant. Then I approached the federation.
WFI did present me with a physio, however simply after every week of that, he tragically died of a coronary heart assault, a mere 26-27 12 months previous boy. So this information that Bajrang would not have a physio was hyped by the media. Even the Sports Authority of India mentioned they’re working on this requirement of mine.

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(Photo: Times Internet)
I do not precisely know what was occurring, however for the previous couple of months, I used to be doing rehab on my personal. Maybe I might have recovered in 2-3 months if I had a correct physio working with me at the moment. That was an extended interval, after which after I returned to coaching, my different knee bought injured. But at the moment I had a physio, so it bought correctly appeared into and brought care of.
Do you continue to rue the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, as you had been in higher kind in 2020 and did not have the knee damage?
The draw back of the postponement of the Olympics by a 12 months was that we may have carried out higher in 2020. I used to be not injured at the moment. But I take issues positively. No level in enthusiastic about the ifs and buts of what is behind us now. The different manner to take a look at that postponement is that the subsequent Olympic cycle (till Paris 2024) was minimize down to a few years.
Is that diminished Olympic cycle a bonus for you?
Wrestling is a contact sport the place it’s possible you’ll get injured throughout coaching or throughout a match. It’s a giant problem to maintain your self match. After the Asian Championships, there’s the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games. To reduce weight after each competitors after which preserve your efficiency is a large problem. Olympic {qualifications} will start subsequent 12 months, there’s the world championship as effectively. So the focus is to stay slot in these two or two and a half years left earlier than the Paris Olympics.

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(Photo: Times Internet)
Has the COVID-19 worry eased a little bit, you assume, for sportspersons?
Yes, the worry associated to Covid-19 has eased a bit. The gamers and most of the residents at the moment are vaccinated, there’s additionally reduction in guidelines and restrictions when you’re out. This is the first time that you simply guys (media) are visiting the SAI Sonepat centre since Covid struck. (But) Safety is a should, not simply towards Covid-19 however any type of sickness and damage. Our coaches say that if we miss in the future of coaching, it pulls your health again by every week. On high of that, if it is as a consequence of sickness, it might hurt us more.
On a concluding observe, have you ever set your self any household objectives but?
Right now I haven’t got any household objectives. My full focus is on my wrestling profession at the second. The duty my nation has put on my shoulders, first I wish to fulfill that. There is a complete life in entrance of me to spend with the household.


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