Tokyo Olympics: Deepak Punia powers on!

Updated: Apr 09, 2020, 07:42 IST | Subodh Mayure | Mumbai

Tokyo-bound grappler Deepak Punia (86kg) undergoes eight hours of tough training daily, leaving no stone unturned in the quest for Olympic medal.

India wrestler Deepak Punia (86kg) celebrates after winning his semi-final bout at the World Championships in Kazakhstan last year. Pic/PTI
India wrestler Deepak Punia (86kg) celebrates after winning his semi-final bout at the World Championships in Kazakhstan last year. Pic/PTI

Tokyo Olympics-bound 86kg category wrestler Deepak Punia has been unable to practise his sport for the last 20 days as the Coronavirus lockdown has confined him to his home in Haryana's Chhara village.

However, he's making up for the lost match practice and competition time by spending extended hours, training and watching videos of his opponents.

'Delay is good for me'

Punia, who bagged a silver medal at the World Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan last year, is leaving no stone unturned in his quest for an Olympic medal. "It's almost three weeks since I last entered a wrestling ring. However, it's good that the Olympics have been postponed as it gives me ample time to work on my game and be better prepared," Punia told mid-day on Wednesday, going on to explain his daily schedule. "My day begins at around 3.30 am with physical training that includes running and other strengthening exercises. This goes on till around 8 am after which I have breakfast and then switch on videos of the world's top wrestlers in my category, from countries like Russia, USA, Iran and Azerbaijan. Lunch is followed by another training session from 4 to 7 pm, which includes some technical exercises," said Punia. The young freestyle grappler, who earned his Olympics spot with a semi-final appearance at the World Wrestling Championships in Kazakhstan last year, like most Indian grapplers, began his journey from the various dangals (local wrestling competitions) held across villages in north India.

Tough journey

"I still remember my first prize. It was a cash award of R5 which I received as a kid at a dangal [wrestling competition] in my village. It has been a long and tough journey en route to Olympic qualification," added Punia, 20, who has bagged gold medals at the 2016 World Cadet Championships in Tbilisi, 2018 Asian Junior Championships in New Delhi and 2019 World Junior Championships in Talinn, Estonia.

Speaking about his Olympic dream, Punia said only a medal will suffice. "I don't think there will be any pressure on me as it will be my first Olympics. I am grateful to my coaches and particularly the Adani group, who have supported me through this journey. I am working very hard and I'm confident of winning a medal in Tokyo next year," added Punia, who is also doing his bit to help society by distributing ration to the needy in his neighbourhood.

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