New Delhi: Star wrestler Bajrang Punia revealed Sunday that knee injury forced him to skip mat training for nearly three weeks. This severely hampered his Olympic preparations and he took the mat for the bronze play-off without any knee protection, going against the advice of his support staff.
Bajrang had skipped the Poland Open, the last ranking event before the Tokyo Games. He had argued that he needed training more than the points and headed to Russia. He trained there and also ended up injuring his right knee by choosing to compete in a local event – the Ali Aliev tournament. He suffered the injury June 25.
Bajrang was off-colour in his first three bouts in Tokyo but played his usual tactical and aggressive game in the do-or-die bronze medal bout and comfortably beat Daulet Niyazbekov from Kazakhstan to earn a podium finish on Olympic debut.
“I could not do mat training for nearly 25 days. I was not able to run as well after the injury. Before a tournament like Olympics even missing one day’s training is not good,” Bajrang said during a media interaction.
The 27-year-old said he will continue to compete in the 65kg category till the Paris Games. “There is no scope to move to 74kg. Next year we have the CWG and the Asian Games. I have missed the gold medal now but will work on my weaknesses and try to get a top-finish in Paris,” Bajrang said. He informed he will start rehabilitation after returning to Haryana. His next target is to do well in the World Championships at Oslo, Norway from October 2-10.
The Haryana wrestler also asserted that a lot of athletes succumb to pressure but he is comfortable carrying the weight of expectations. “I have seen people crumble under pressure. It mostly happens with the new athletes but I feel happy when people tell me that they want to see me win Olympic medal. Pressure gives you nothing, so we must learn to play freely,” Bajrang pointed out.
Unlike other wrestlers, weight-cut is not an issue that bothers Bajrang much. Now he wants to go home and eat ‘Choorma’ that his mother Om Pyari prepares for him whenever he gets back home. “Win or defeat, I get ‘Choorma’ at home and I will eat that. Maintaining weight is not a problem for me,” he said with a smile.
“My coaches and physio wanted me to play with taped knee in the bronze medal bout. But I don’t feel comfortable. So I refused to do so”