Ranked world No. 2 in the fiercely competitive 65kg freestyle event, Bajrang is assured of a top-four seeding in Tokyo. But one of India’s top medal hopes at the Games has put those thoughts on the backburner now.
Last week, Bajrang tweeted pictures of him training in Russia with David Baev, the 2019 world champion in the 70kg category. For Bajrang, this training experience is more valuable than what the Poland ranking series would have offered.
I have started my training in Russia with the 2019 World Champion in 70Kg David Baev Many thanks to the Union Spo… https://t.co/2DeRrQDBui
— Bajrang Punia 🇮🇳 (@BajrangPunia) 1623393907000
“I would have benefited in ranking if I had competed in Poland…(But) I am not thinking so much about the draw. 65kg is a very competitive category, so I have to put in my best in every match,” said Bajrang talking to Timesofindia.com from Russia.
Current world No. 1 Rashidov Gadzhimurad of Russia and Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan (ranked 3rd) are among the three main contenders, along with Bajrang, to win the 65kg gold in Tokyo.
In light of that, the draw in Tokyo could very well hold the key. But Bajrang feels a favourable draw helps only in the initial stages of the tournament.
“The advantage of the draw will be in the first 1-2 matches, but if you go ahead, then you have to fight hard and give your best. I need training the most now,” the 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games champion said.
Watch World Wrestling Championships Silver Medalist & 2 times Asian Championships Gold medalist @BajrangPunia tal… https://t.co/Mg2XPz2zvd
— Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) 1622994959000
The semi-final defeat at the 2019 World Championships hurt Bajrang a lot but he isn’t carrying any baggage of that to Tokyo.
It was Niyazbekov who restricted Bajrang to a bronze in Nur Sultan two years ago.
“You don’t change your techniques just because of one loss. I learn a lot from every match, whether I win or lose, and then we discuss and try to improve,” he further told TimesofIndia.com.
That improvement process happens with Bajrang’s personal coach Shako Bentinidis.
“With Shako, I discuss all the insights of a match and we analyse what should be our next move,” said the 27-year-old Bajrang, who was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2019.
Sweat it out! https://t.co/RUF9Ok3AiP
— Bajrang Punia 🇮🇳 (@BajrangPunia) 1623555918000
Bajrang puts a lot of effort into his workout routines, which is what he feels separates him from many international wrestlers.
“Foreign athletes work mostly on their technique, but I like to work not only on my technique but also the physical workout. Apart from this, I have got to learn a lot from my old bouts. I watch them a lot with my coaches to improve all my weaknesses.”
The wrestling competition at the Tokyo Olympics will take place during the latter half of the July 23 to August 8 Tokyo Olympics. The men’s 65kg freestyle competition is scheduled for August 6 and 7.
Apart from Bajrang and Vinesh, seven other Indian wrestlers will compete at the Tokyo Olympics.