India's ace wrestler Bajrang Punia suffered an injury during the semifinal bout against Abulmazhid Kudiev at the Ali Aliev Memorial Tournament in Kaspiysk, Russia on Friday. He will now return to the training base in Vladikavkaz for further assessment. His coach, Shako Bentinidis, feels that although it is worrying, Bajrang Punia will recover in time.
"It is kind of worrying since it is the ankle. But the good news is he is walking without any support. So, that is a relief. We are now going back to Vladikavkaz where there will be further assessment. I think he will be fine maximum by a week," Bajrang Punia's coach told Sportskeeda.
In the semifinals, the 26-year-old was trailing 4-0 in the first half against Kudiev. But with less than two minutes for half-time, Bajrang Punia injured his ankle during a takedown by his opponent. He forfeited the bout and limped off the mat.
The Tokyo Olympic-bound wrestler had a blasting start to the competition. In the first round, Bajrang Punia beat Abdusalam Abdusalamov of Russia with technical superiority. He continued his dominant performance in the second round. The three-time world medalist defeated Saidulaev 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.
The next bout was against Daulet Niyazbekov of Kazakhstan, one of the medal contenders in 65 kg for the Tokyo Olympics. It was a rematch of the 2019 world championship semifinal where the Kazak wrestler got the better of Bajrang Punia in the controversial match. The Indian wrestler, however, got his revenge. He thrashed him 9-0.
Shako said the competition was a good testing ground for them. He feels it got the best out of Bajrang Punia and also showed the areas they still need to work on.
"It was a very good performance today. Had he not injured himself, a medal was confirmed. He was moving so smoothly. I am happy. Now it's time to return to the drawing board," Bajrang Punia's coach Shako said.
Bajrang Punia seeded for Tokyo Olympics
Meanwhile, Bajrang Punia has been seeded for the Tokyo Olympics in 65 kg men’s freestyle. The world No.2 is seeded second behind world champion Gadhzimurad Rashidov of Russia.
Other Indian wrestlers who have been seeded are Ravi Dahiya (57 kg), Deepak Punia (86 kg) and Vinesh Phogat (53 kg women’s wrestling).