Tokyo Olympic-bound wrestler Bajrang Punia began his final phase of preparations for the Summer Games by sparring and sweating with top Russian grapplers. Bajrang Punia was accompanied by his Georgian coach Shako Bentindis. The duo are training in Vladikavkaz with the 2019 world champion in the 70kg category (non-Olympic weight class), David Baev.
"I have started my training in Russia with David Baev, the 2019 world champion in 70kg. There are good sparring partners in Vladikavkaz,' three-time world medalist Bajrang Punia wrote on his Twitter handle.
Bajrang Punia, who will represent India at the Tokyo Olympics in the men's 65kg freestyle, had reached Vladikavkaz last month. He will train in Russia for nearly five weeks before flying to Tokyo.
In the absence of his regular sparring partner Jitender Kumar, the 2018 Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medalist had originally planned to invite five wrestlers from different countries to train with him in India. However, the plan could not materialize because of the travel restrictions in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
He skipped the recently held Poland Open Ranking Series in Warsaw to focus on training and sparring with top Russian wrestlers. His coach Shako says training and working on shortcomings are more important now as compared to the competitions.
"With better sparring partners in Russia, we are sure to improve further. It's time to focus on training with top wrestlers over competitions," Shako told Sportskeeda before departing for Russia.
Bajrang Punia agrees with his coach. Shedding light on why he picked Russia as his training center, the Haryana-born wrestler said they have good training facilities and better sparring partners which will help him polish his skills ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
"Good sparring partners play an important role in polishing skills. Vladikavkaz has good facilities for wrestlers. I trained in Russia before the Asian Wrestling Championships too,' Bajrang Punia said during an online media interaction last month.
Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia to join Bajrang Punia in Russia
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is planning a training camp for Ravi Dahiya and Deepak Punia in Russia.
The two wrestlers have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 57 kg and 86 kg categories respectively. They will join Bajrang Punia in Vladikavkaz.