2020 Tokyo Olympics: Bajrang Punia to take on World Wrestling Championships

Updated: Sep 14, 2019, 09:00 IST | Ashwin Ferro

Success at World Championships beginning in Kazakhstan today will be apt launch pad for 2020 Tokyo Olympics medal, says star wrestler Bajrang Punia

2020 Tokyo Olympics: Bajrang Punia to take on World Wrestling Championships
India's No. 1 wrestler Bajrang Punia

Bajrang Punia's journey to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics podium begins in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan today. India's World No. 1 wrestler will take on the planet's best World Wrestling Championships (September 14-22), an Olympic qualifier.

Form factor

Punia (65kg) is in the form of his life and whatever he has touched this season has turned to gold. He has bagged gold medals in all the four events he has participated in — Dan Kolov competition in Bulgaria (March), Asian Championships in China (April), Ali Aliev tournament in Russia (May), Yasar Dogu International in Turkey (July). But with success comes pressure and that's why the Haryana grappler is not thinking too much about his top billing. "It's a great feeling to be World No. 1 and top seed, but I don't want to keep thinking about that. If I do, it will only add to the pressure on me and that's not a good thing," Punia told mid-day yesterday.

Rush of gold

Pint-sized Punia has earned numerous accolades on the mat, including gold medals at the Asian Games (2018), Commonwealth Games (2018) and Commonwealth Championships (2016, 2017) besides a bronze (2013) and a silver (2018) medal at the World Championships, both in Hungary. A World Championships gold and an Olympic medal are top priority now and Punia need not look too far for inspiration as two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar (74kg) is in the Indian line-up. "Sushil bhaiis our only wrestler who has won two Olympic medals back to back. He and Yogi bhai [London Olympics bronze-winniner Yogeshwar Dutt] have been a huge inspiration.I still re m e m b e r the days when I used to play in theakhadas [mud pits]. During that time, both Sushil bhai and Yogeshwar bhai had won medals playing on the mat and that inspired me to do well. It would be an honour to emulate Sushil bhai's feat. My aim is to secure an Olympic berth. A gold medal here will be a bonus," added Punia.

Stakes are high

Speaking on his preparations for this event, Punia, 25, said: "The stakes are high as all wrestlers will be looking to secure an Olympic quota. That's the reason we arrived here early to get acclimatised to the conditions. I have to do well here to get there [Tokyo]. I have trained hard, played a lot of matches and watched videos to analyse my opponents. I've even looked back on some of my mistakes last year and tried to rectify them. Most top wrestlers are aware of each other's techniques, so nothing can be left to chance. If I can seal my Olympic berth here that will given me enough time to prepare for Tokyo."

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