India's wrestling contingent began its Olympic campaign on Tuesday on a disappointing note, with Sonam Malik's defeat. However, they will have their shot at redemption when Deepak Punia takes the mat on Wednesday. Though somewhat overshadowed by Bajrang Punia's brilliance, Deepak has the ability to spring a few surprises.
Deepak Punia's achievements
Deepak's first international breakthrough was in 2016, when he won his first gold medal at the World Cadet Championship in Tbilisi, Georgia.
He then bagged gold in the 86 kg heavyweight category at the 2018 Asian Junior Wrestling Championship held in New Delhi. That same year, Deepak raked up a silver at the World Junior Wrestling Championship in Trnava, Slovakia.
In 2019, Deepak won a bronze medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship. He then hogged the headlines with a historic gold in the 86 kg heavyweight category at the World Junior Wrestling Championship in Tallinn, Estonia.
Deepak also won silver in the 86 kg heavyweight at the 2019 World Wrestling Championship held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan.
However, Deepak hasn't had enough matches under his belt in the leadup to the Olympics. He suffered an injury and had to withdraw from several competitions in 2020.
Deepak Punia's strengths and weaknesses
Deepak has had a good transition from junior level to international level. The reigning junior world champion's flexibility, power, stamina and attack are his strong points. The youngster will step into the competition as the world No. 2 in his weight category.
Deepak sustained an injury in 2020, which affected his participation in several championships. As covid-19 disrupted the entire sporting world, it had its impact on Deepak too.
Competitions are vital to evaluate one's fitness and skills at the international level. This is especially true for a young athlete.
That could be a cause for concern when Deepak begins his Olympic campaign, as he has not participated in enough events before the Olympics to be fully comfortable.
If he still manages a podium finish, the 21-year-old will become a household name in India.
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