I Don’t Take Pressure at All, Neither Am I Overconfident: Bajrang

Bajrang Punia beat national champion Harphool in the only bout of the 65kg weight class on Friday, 26 July.

Olympic Sports
4 min read

Video Editor: Ashutosh Bhardwaj

Video Journalist: Sumit Badola

Ace Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia moved one step closer to book a spot in the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, 26 July.

Participating in the national trials for the upcoming World Wrestling Championship in Kazakhstan, Bajrang beat national champion Harphool in the only bout of the 65kg weight class. Leading 7-0, he got a walkover after Harphool got injured immediately after the start of the second half.

Bajrang was happy that he entered the World Championship but at the same time he was sympathetic towards his opponent, who badly injured his knee.

“It is always sad if any athlete sustains any kind of injury because we all arrive for a bout after lot of hard work and training and an injury just pushes you back. I would have been happy if the bout could finish. The audience would have enjoyed watching the entire six minutes of wrestling.”
Bajrang Punia

Despite the golden run, Bajrang has been suspectable with his defense. Over the last few months he has worked with his new Georgian coach Emzarious Bentinidis to solve the chinks in his armour.

“I feel that I did well for whatever time I was there in the middle. I am working on my weaknesses like leg defense. I also have the habit of giving away points at the beginning, so I am happy with my performance for whatever time the bout lasted.”
Bajrang Punia

With eight gold medals in his last nine tournaments, Bajrang has credited Bentinidis for his superlative performance.

“There has been lot of improvement. Since the new coach has arrived my performance has improved. I am trying to make good use of all the inputs from the coach and prepare well till the Olympics.”
Bajrang Punia

The understanding between the duo was evident on Friday when the Georgian was heard cheering ‘Baju Baju’ from the corner.

Amid the gold rush, Bajrang lost on two occasions. One of these losses came in the finals of the previous edition of the World Championships when Bajrang had to settle for a silver, He lost to Japan’s Takuto Otoguro. But on Friday Bajrang clarified that last year’s loss will have no effect on him when travels to Nur-Sultan in Kazakthstan later in September.

“We pay attention only to weaknesses that we made in past encounter and not what medal we won. It doesn’t matter whether we won gold or silver. It is not necessary that if someone who has won gold won’t make mistakes.”
Bajrang Punia

“Every athlete makes mistakes. The thing is there should be someone to take advantage of that. So, my aim would be not to commit any mistake at this edition of the World Championships improve from the last edition,” added Bajrang.

First Indian wrestler to be ranked number one in the world across any weight category Bajrang has never allowed his envious career graph to get the better of him. In fact, the wrestler explained that it is not ranking but his performance that takes the priority.

“I don’t take pressure at all. Neither am I overconfident since I am ranked world number one. I always try to give my best. When I am on the mat, I always do my best instead of thinking about my ranking.”
Bajrang Punia

Meanwhile, Bajrang slammed the Haryana government and the sports minister Anil Vij for the state’s new prize money policy.

Last month the Haryana government had announced that part of a new policy if sportsperson wins more than one medal during a financial year, he/she will receive full award money for the highest medal and at least 50 per cent of the award money for the second and the subsequent medals.

“This shouldn’t happen with an athlete. We shouldn’t be busy with such things. We win medals for our country. Not our village or the railways because we represent India not our state Haryana. I believe Anij Vij did the wrong thing.”
Bajrang Punia

“This had never happened before. But he is saying that his policy is the best. Athletes involved here include the ones in junior, cadet and sub-junior category. They hardly have any prize money. They are saying that they are supporting grass root level but if you don’t support junior and sub-junior athletes than how are improving the grassroot level,” added Bajrang.

“Most the athletes come from humble background. The Haryana government is trying to finish them all.”

Bajrang even went on to praise the Centre and newly appointed Union Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju for the pro-sports stance.

“The scene is better at the Centre. There is a better government and they have a Sports Minster who is helping everyone whereas the Haryana government is finishing everybody. I would request both the Chief Minister and the Sports minister to rethink about their policy.”
Bajrang Punia

The World Championship will also serve as qualifiers for the Tokyo 2020 and after a rich haul at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games last year, Bajrang would surely not settle for anything less than a Gold at the next edition of the Olympics.

“If I continue to be loved and blessed by my countrymen I will continue to give my best.”
Bajrang Punia

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