One of India’s top wrestlers, Bajrang Punia, says he is not bothered about who represents the country in men’s 65 kg freestyle at the 2016 Rio Olympics as long as the nation gets to win a medal in the category.
Bajrang as well as 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt now compete in the 65 kg event after the United World Wrestling (UWW) changed the weight categories in 2014. Only one can represent India at the Rio Games.
“We both compete in the same weight category. We will see what happens. It is too early to say anything now. First we need to qualify for the Rio Games and then whosoever the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) seems fit to send, should be the choice,” the 21-year-old, who won a bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Budapest,said.
“The trials will also happen for the same. It is not a problem on who represents India. I have been with Yogeshwar since 2008 and he has been like a guru to me. The competing wrestler should get a medal for the country, that’s what matters.”
The Jhajjar-born started 2015 on a fantastic note, winning a gold at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Championship in Colorado Springs, United States, in February. But a back injury forced him to stay away from the mat for several months.
“After I won the gold in the US, I had some trouble in my back. There was a problem in my disc because of which I could not wrestle for months. I came back recently and took part in the World Championships (in September) but I wasn’t 100 percent. My back is getting better and I should be fine soon,” said Bajrang, who lost the bronze medal match at the 2015 Worlds in Las Vegas.
The grappler will now compete in the inaugural Pro Wrestling League (PWL) which will be held in six Indian cities from December 10 to 27. He was sold to Bangalore Yodhhas for Rs.29.5 lakh at the players’ auction held earlier this month.
“The PWL will help Indian wrestlers. Earlier, we would go abroad for training and exposure purposes where we got a chance to see and practise with Olympians. Now all these top wrestlers from across the world will come here,” said Bajrang, who was a silver medallist at the Commonwealth and Asian Games in 2014.
“So for the same experience and exposure we do not have to go out; it will come to our home which is great for wrestlers like me. It is a positive sign for us. What can be better than this?”
But is the PWL being held at the wrong time, right before the Olympic year? What if some medal expectant gets injured?
“Injuries can happen any time — whether in practice or during a bout. But thinking that, we cannot stop wrestling, right? We have to continue,” added Bajrang.
“This league, on the contrary, will give us competition experience ahead of the Olympic year which we can use to our advantage. We can learn how to attack and other techniques which will help increase our stamina and power to get ready for the Olympic qualifiers in March 2016.”