Bajrang Punia has arguably been the most consistent Indian wrestler since 2013. The 27-year-old grappler from the Jhajjar district of Haryana burst onto the scene in 2013 when he won a bronze medal at the World Wrestling Championships in the -60 kg division.
Since then, Bajrang Punia has won medals on multiple occasions at the Asian Games, Asian Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. He was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India's highest sporting honour, for his achievements in 2019.
Despite all these achievements, the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be Bajrang Punia's first Olympics. In 2016, he voluntarily did not pose any challenge to his mentor and friend Yogeshwar Dutt in the -65kg category as a mark of his respect for the veteran wrestler. However, since Yogeshwar Dutt retired, Bajrang Punia has taken over the reins and has done a brilliant job of filling the shoes of his mentor.
Bajrang Punia won a silver medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships. He qualified for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 after winning a bronze medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships. Even after qualifying for the Olympics, Bajrang has been very consistent with his form and has earned a seeding of number 2 in his weight division of -65kg at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Technically, Bajrang Punia has been preparing for the Olympics for almost 8 years. He has had his share of ups and downs but his level of motivation has been absolutely immaculate. In this article, we will analyze Bajrang's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats that he may come across at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Strengths of Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia is one of the calmest wrestlers going around. For a sport where your adrenaline can easily get the better of you, Bajrang's tactical brilliance makes him one of the best wrestlers in the world. Even if the chips are down, he can come up with a powerhouse attack in the last 30 seconds of the bout and will more often than not succeed.
In addition to this, Bajrang Punia has great stamina. If the bout is square after 4 out of the stipulated 6 minutes, it is almost impossible to defeat him given his power and stamina. Bajrang Punia plays the perfect waiting game and this trait of his can come in very handy in crunch situations at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
His patience can prove to be a deciding factor against some opponents who have better techniques than him.
Weaknesses of Bajrang Punia
Although Bajrang Punia is one of the world's best freestyle wrestlers in the -65kg category, he has this knack of starting slowly. This trait of his can get him into trouble if he is drawn against a strong wrestler at the start of the tournament. He cannot afford to give away too many points at the start of the bout at an important tournament like the Olympics.
Bajrang is also quite vulnerable to leg attacks. He has been at the receiving end of very important bouts in his career due to this shortcoming. Although Bajrang Punia has worked through this weakness of his, it needs to be seen if he can dodge the leg attacks of some top-class wrestlers he will come across at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Bajrang is also quite prone to injuries as one can recall him getting injured at the Ali Aliyev tournament last month. A repeat of such an incident may put an end to his Olympic dream before it gets started.
Opportunities for Bajrang Punia
The Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be the biggest tournament in the 27-year-old Bajrang Punia's career. He has won an array of medals over the past eight years in every major tournament one can think of in wrestling but the Olympics.
He has persisted and persisted for all these years for this particular moment and one can expect that he is destined to shine for all the sacrifices he has given for his sport. However, for that to happen, Bajrang must sort out his shortcomings before the Tokyo Olympics 2020 starts.
Threats for Bajrang Punia
Bajrang Punia competes in what many believe is the most open weight category in freestyle wrestling, the -65kg category, at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. One needs to be on their toes for the whole tournament to succeed in such an open field.
Bajrang has been caught wanting in the past against the likes of Takuto Otoguro of Japan due to his shortcomings against leg attacks. Bajrang will be seeded number 2 at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 which means that he can safely evade the 2019 world champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov (seeded 1) of Russia until the finals, given both of them make it that far.
Bajrang lost to Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan in the semifinals of the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in the latter's home conditions. However, in the quarterfinals of the Ali Aliyev tournament late last month, he beat Niyazbekov handsomely.
However, Bajrang Punia's biggest threat at the Tokyo Olympics 2020 will be Takuto Otoguro and Bajrang will be hoping that the Japanese grappler is not placed in his half of the draw. Apart from Otoguro, Tömör-Ochiryn Tulga of Mongolia, Vazgen Tevanyan of Armenia, and Haji Aliyev of Azerbaijan will be some of the major threats to Bajrang's chances at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.
Bajrang Punia is one of the biggest medal prospects for India at the Tokyo Olympics 2020. Although there will be a lot of stiff challenges in his quest for the -65kg men's freestyle category title at the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Bajrang will be all geared up to shine like the superstar he is to restore the lost glory of Indian men's freestyle wrestling at the Olympics.
When is Bajrang Punia's first match and who is he facing?
Bajrang's first match is scheduled for August 6, 2021. The draw for his matches is yet to be announced.
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