A man of few words, all the energies of Bajrang in the last four years have been trained to get that Olympic medal. Whether it’s about which tournament to enter and which to let go, or where to train or choose his training partners, Bajrang’s moves have been driven solely by this strong desire to win gold at the Olympics.
The country also has high expectations of him, and why not! In the past four years, Bajrang has won gold at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games (both in 2018); two gold medals (2017, 2019), two silver (2020, 2021) and one bronze (2018) in the Asian Championship; and a silver (2018) and a bronze (2019) at the World Championships.
He has also earned a plethora of top-tier positions in various struggle tournaments.
OLYMPICS KI AASHA II BAJRANG PUNIA II FIGHT
Bajrang will enter Tokyo Olympic Games as the No. 2 in the world and also the second favorite for the Games in the 65 kg category. A medal at 65 kg, however, will not be easy. It is like a ‘group of death’ with 7-8 extremely talented fighters who can defeat each other on any given day.
There’s reigning world champion and top seed Gadzhimurad Rashidov of Russia (whom Bajrang has never competed against) and 2018 world champion Takuto Otoguro of Japan, who has beaten Bajrang twice in two encounters so far. Then there are Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, third seeded, and Iszmail Muszukajev of Hungary, fourth seeded. Not counting other fierce competitors and big names like Haji Aliyev from Azerbaijan and John Michael Diakomihalis from the United States.
According to the seeds, Bajrang will avoid Muszukaev, who is not in his half, and will likely face Rashidov only if he enters the final. Before that, however, Bajrang will hope not to meet his Achilles heel, Otoguro, before the semi-finals. If he beats Otoguro, Bajrang could face Niyazbekov in the semi-finals.
Go! # Tokyo2020 https://t.co/LRzqlrbchY
– Bajrang Punia 🇮🇳 (@BajrangPunia) 1626503265000
Although the Kazakh had defeated Bajrang in the 2019 World Championship semi-final, the Indian triumphed in their last match at the Ali Aliyev tournament in June.
“There is no one who is a favorite in the 65 kg category. There are 10-12 fighters who can defeat each other in their day, ”Bajrang had told TOI before leaving to train in Russia.
“I believe in my training and I want to do my best (at the Olympics). I want to come back with a medal. ”
To be victorious against such a field, Bajrang would have to be at the top of his game from the start. It’s common for Bajrang to give away points at the start of a fight and then make a powerful comeback, especially in the second quarter.
“I am working to not give points before. The coach (Emzarios ‘Shako’ Bentinidis) keeps telling me that a comeback win requires a lot of effort and if I keep doing it, I’ll be exhausted when I get to the medal rounds, ”reflects Bajrang.
From humble beginnings to one of the best freestyle wrestlers in India. 🇮🇳🤼 @ BajrangPunia goes to @ Tokyo2020 with… https://t.co/bzTHI8ohSA
– Olympics (@Olympics) 1625877000000
Much has been said and written about Bajrang’s main deficiency: the defense of his legs. However, you want an overall upgrade.
“Just focusing on defending your legs is not the solution. If I keep working on that, other areas of my game will be ignored and new problems will arise. You shouldn’t leave anything unattended. ”
But the positives of his game make him simply irresistible.
“When the opponent starts to get tired and fatigue invades him, that’s when I pounce, attack and accumulate points. My style is more along the lines of working hard for my victory. I can’t play the technical game like the other 65kg fighters do. My strong point is power and endurance. That helps me come back (in a fight), ”says the 27-year-old, who will participate in his first Olympics.
“Power, stamina and endurance are gained through training. No other formula. I don’t really like working out in the gym. I like our desi methods like dand-baithak (sit-ups), rassi chadhai (rope climbing). For me, it’s more about weight training. That increases power and stamina. ”
August 6 and 7 will be Bajrang’s reckoning days in Tokyo.