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

SONEPAT: August 7, 2021. Bajrang Punia, debilitated and pissed off by his knee harm, 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 just about on one leg, carrying a knee harm he suffered in Russia barely a month or so earlier than the Video games. However his valor had shone by way of within the Japanese capital.
Bajrang, although, misplaced within 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 just about determined to place his profession on the road. “Take away the (knee) brace for now, we’ll deal with the harm later,” he instructed the physio.
Summoning each inch of his vitality reserves, Bajrang beat Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov 8-0 to win an Olympic bronze medal. However the effort took its toll, on his knees.
For greater 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.
Forward of his departure for the event in Mongolia, TimesofIndia.com visited the Sports activities Authority of India centre in Sonepat, the place Bajrang was a part of the nationwide camp for the Indian males’s wrestling workforce.
A candid Bajrang sat down for an unique interview with TimesofIndia.com on the sidelines of the world , taking questions on his life on and across 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).

(Photograph: Instances Web)
It is good to see you again on the mat…
In fact, it is an important feeling. Very completely happy that I might be returning to the mat absolutely ready. Coaching goes completely positive. Throughout the Olympics, the (proper) knee was injured; then later the opposite one received injured as nicely. However now I’m absolutely match and targeted on the Asian Championships.
Earlier than Covid shredded the worldwide sports activities calendar, you have been in high type. However the Tokyo Olympics have been delayed by a 12 months, then you definately picked up a knee harm, however nonetheless ended up with a bronze on the Video games. How do you see issues from right here on panning out for you?
The shape I used to be in throughout 2018 and because the (knee) harm after that, I’ve seen ups and down in my profession. However I’m coming again to that (type). This (Asian Championships) goes to be my first worldwide event because the Tokyo Olympics, and I’ll attempt to provide you with my greatest efficiency.
Any particular areas of enchancment you might be concentrating on right here on the nationwide camp in Sonepat?
We’re engaged on total enchancment, on all of the weak factors in my wrestling, together with leg defence. My leg defence has improved. However the factor is that I’m an attacking wrestler and after I assault, my opponent assaults as nicely. If I play a defensive recreation, then I can also save my leg (from getting caught). Each wrestler has his personal model, some wrestle on proper leg (ahead), some on left, some on each. My coaches have at all times mentioned ‘assault is one of the best defence’. That is the premise of my coaching.
How is Bajrang the ‘attacking wrestler’ settling down into married life?
(Laughs) You too perceive that very nicely, you might be additionally married. It does not take any guessing that at residence the ‘residence minister’ is at all times the spouse. It is a totally different life along with your life associate.


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With Sangeeta being a wrestler herself, do you each share any widespread targets?
In fact, we each wish to proceed representing the nation and do nicely. She too is within the India camp presently (for ladies wrestlers in Lucknow). Forward of the Asian Championships, she had a knee harm and underwent three surgical procedures.
Coming again to life on the mat, you at the moment are hooked up to educate Sujeet Maan, after being with Shako Bendinitis for nearly 4 years. How totally different is it working with an Indian coach?
Indian coaches should not inferior in any manner. They too learn about all of the facets of coaching. That is why I made a decision to work with an Indian coach now. Sujeet is with me personally and in addition taking care of the camp. Earlier than 2018 additionally I used to be working with an Indian coach. Within 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 on how a lot curiosity the participant is keen to be taught with.
So far as Shako is worried, he was a superb coach. However he had a contract solely till the Tokyo Olympics. When it received postponed by a 12 months, then Shako’s contract too was prolonged. But it surely’s not true that he was pushed out after that. I used to be with Shako for greater than 4 years. I benefited the utmost I might 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 and not using a physiotherapist…
It was not an issue in any respect. Throughout the choice trials, I used to be requested how my knee harm 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, and so they mentioned that they can not 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 outdated boy. So this information that Bajrang does not have a physio was hyped by the media. Even the Sports activities Authority of India mentioned they’re engaged on this requirement of mine.


(Photograph: Instances Web)
I do not precisely know what was taking place, however for the previous couple of months, I used to be doing rehab alone. Possibly I might have recovered in 2-3 months if I had a correct physio working with me at the moment. That was a protracted interval, after which after I returned to coaching, my different knee received injured. However at the moment I had a physio, so it received correctly seemed into and brought care of.
Do you continue to rue the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, as you have been in higher type in 2020 and did not have the knee harm?
The draw back of the postponement of the Olympics by a 12 months was that we might have carried out higher in 2020. I used to be not injured at the moment. However I take issues positively. No level in excited about the ifs and buts of what is behind us now. The opposite manner to take a look at that postponement is that the subsequent Olympic cycle (till Paris 2024) was reduce down to 3 years.
Is that diminished Olympic cycle a bonus for you?
Wrestling is a contact sport the place you could get injured throughout coaching or throughout a event. It is a huge problem to maintain your self match. After the Asian Championships, there’s the Commonwealth Video games, Asian Video games. To drop extra pounds after each competitors after which keep your efficiency is a big problem. Olympic {qualifications} will start subsequent 12 months, there may be the world championship as nicely. So the main target is to stay slot in these two or two and a half years left earlier than the Paris Olympics.


(Photograph: Instances Web)
Has the COVID-19 concern eased somewhat, you suppose, for sportspersons?
Sure, the concern associated to Covid-19 has eased a bit. The gamers and a lot of the residents at the moment are vaccinated, there may be additionally reduction in guidelines and restrictions if you find yourself out. That is the primary time that you just guys (media) are visiting the SAI Sonepat centre since Covid struck. (However) Security is a should, not simply in opposition to Covid-19 however any type of sickness and harm. 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 on account of sickness, it could hurt us extra.
On a concluding word, have you ever set your self any household targets but?
Proper now I haven’t got any household targets. My full focus is on my wrestling profession in the meanwhile. The duty my nation has placed on my shoulders, first I wish to fulfill that. There’s a entire life in entrance of me to spend with the household.

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