Bajrang Punia is one of the best medal contenders in wrestling for India at the Tokyo Olympics next month.
The kind of form he has been in at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series (Rome) and the Asian Championships (Almaty), one can rest assured the Indian is going to give a tough time to a lot of his rivals at the Tokyo Olympics.
With just 50 days to go before the Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony, Bajrang Punia will be flying to Russia to get top-level training ahead of the big-ticket event. As there are no clear favorites in the 65kg category, Bajrang Punia will be aiming to make full use of the Russia trip in his quest for the elusive gold.
The last few years have been of tremendous success for Bajrang Punia with multiple international laurels besides the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award – the country’s highest sporting honor – he received in 2019. He was also conferred with the Padma Shri award the same year.
Sportskeeda takes a look at some of Bajrang Punia’s high points from the last five years
# 2017 Asian Wrestling Championships (Gold)
Bajrang Punia’s maiden Asian Championship gold came on home soil. Cheered by a home crowd in New Delhi, Bajrang Punia started with a 7-5 win over Sirojiddin Hasanov of Uzbekistan in the qualifiers.
He defeated Iranian Meisam Nasiri (3-2) and Kukgwang KIM (6-2) of DPR Korea in the quarterfinals and semifinals respectively. In the final, Bajrang Punia outclassed Korean Seungchul Lee 6-1.
# 2018 Commonwealth Games (Gold)
Continuing his dominance in the sport, Bajrang Punia’s maiden gold at the Commonwealth Games came in 2018. He had earlier won silver in the previous edition in 2014 in Incheon.
Coming in as a pre-tournament favorite, Bajrang Punia didn’t allow any of his opponents to score a single point, winning all his bouts including the final by identical 10-0 margins.
Bajrang Punia started with a pre-quarterfinal win over Brahm Richards of New Zealand that pitted him against Nigerian Amas Daniel in the next round. In the semifinals, Bajrang Punia defeated Vincent De Marinis of Canada before clinching gold with a thrashing of Welshman Kane Charig.
# 2018 Asian Games (Gold)
Like his preceding CWG gold, Bajrang Punia also dominated the 65kg category in Jakarta. The Indian started off by winning his pre-quarterfinals bout against Sirojiddin Khasanov of Uzbekistan 13-3.
Bajrang maintained a 10-point gap against his opponents in the quarterfinals, too, when he defeated Tajikistan’s Abdulqosim Fayziev 12-2.
In the semifinals, BajrangPunia got the better of Mongolian Batchuluuny Batmagnai 10-0. He won the final defeating Japanese Daichi Takatani 11-8 in an intense battle.
# 2018 World Championships (Silver)
Unlike the previous two meetings, Bajrang Punia had to be content with silver at the World Championships. Drawn in the bottom half, Bajrang Punia had a 9-4 win over Hungarian Roman Asharin in round of 32. The Indian had an easy passage to the quarterfinals, getting the better of Korea's Lee Seung-chul 4-0.
In the last-eight stage, Bajrang Punia edged over Mongolian Tömör-Ochiryn Tulga to set up a semi-final clash against Alejandro Valdés of Cuba.
Like his quarterfinal bout, Bajrang Punia suffered stiff resistance from Valdes in the semis but his experience proved vital as the Indian entered the final with a 4-3 win. In an exhausting summit clash, Bajrang Punia lost to Japanese Takuto Otoguro 16-9.
# 2019 Asian Championships (Gold)
2019 was the year to remember for Bajrang Punia. After being conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, Bajrang Punia justified the feat with his second gold medal at the Asian Championships.
Defeating Divoshan Charles Fernando 10-0 in the pre-quarterfinals, Bajrang Punia went on to win the quarterfinal against Iranian Peiman Bioukagha Biabani 6-0. In the semifinals, Bajrang Punia outclassed Sirojiddin Khasanov 12-1.
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The final encounter proved to be intense with the Indian prevailing 12-7 over Sayatbek Okassov of Kazakhstan.