Bajrang Punia: Shako Bentinidis is still my personal coach
India's star grappler rubbishes report of him sacking trainer Bentinidis
New Delhi: Dismissing the report that he has sacked his personal coach Shako Bentinidis, star wrestler Bajrang Punia yesterday said that the Georgian is very much in his team and he has no plans to make any change to his support staff. It was recently reported that Bajrang, the only Indian to win three World Championship medals, has parted ways with Bentinidis.
'No one checked with me'
"I fail to understand who has said this and why? Shako is my coach and I should have been asked about it. I really felt bad after reading that frivolous report. There is no truth in it," Bajrang told PTI, reacting to a media report. "He is my personal coach, arranged by JSW. This is beyond me to understand why it was reported that I have sacked him. Who is saying this and why? I don't intend to change my coach," added the 65kg wrestler.
When contacted, JSW said neither they nor Bajrang at any stage wanted to let go Shako. "If Bajrang does not want to train with Shako, we will not have him. But neither Bajrang nor the WFI asked us to sack Shako," said Manisha Malhotra, JSW's head of scouting. The WFI though indeed were not happy with Bentinidis for pressing the protest button when the referee awarded four points to Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov for a throw during his semi-final bout at the Worlds. It cost Bajrang an extra point which WFI felt robbed the Indian of a place in the final. It is learnt that Bentinidis had to even apologise to the WFI in Nur Sultan for taking that protest call.
"Shako has got Bajrang to No. 1 in the world, so, he has done something right. Yes, he is abrasive but nobody hired him for his personality. There is a lot of pressure on Bajrang to win a medal at the Olympics and so close to the Olympics, it's not a good move to change coach, so there is no such plan," added Malhotra.
Doesn't concern us: WFI
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said it has no information on the issue. "It's a matter related to Bajrang and only he can decide if he wants Shako or not. We have not appointed him," WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said. Shako also rejected allegations that he took a bit of the appearance money meant for Bajrang without informing him during the 'Grapple at the Garden — Beat the Streets' event in New York. "I am as pure as a source of water," he said. Both Bajrang and Manisha also backed the Georgian on the issue. "There is nothing like that," said Bajrang.
"I don't think he did that. He's not stupid," said Manisha. Bentinidis said they have to quickly forget everything and start preparations for Tokyo. "I'm no longer offended by anyone. I need support to prepare Bajrang for Tokyo. I'm sure, by God's grace, I will achieve my goal," he said.
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