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Bajrang Punia’s new coach outlines plan for busy 2022 season

Bajrang Punia (in blue) at the Tokyo Olympics
Bajrang Punia (in blue) at the Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia’s search for a new coach has come to an end. To polish his skills for future international events, the 27-year-old celebrated freestyle wrestler has zeroed in on Indian wrestling coach Sujeet Maan.

Maan, a retired international wrestler, has been associated with the national camps for over a decade. He will have to work an extra bit as he is now also a personal coach for Punia.

In an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda, Maan outlined his future plans with Punia, saying the main focus will be to stay healthy throughout the year.

“The main priorities will be to work on the strengths," said the 43-year-old coach. "At the same time we have to minimize the flaws."

Post the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games, the Indian wrestler ended a three-year relationship with Georgian wrestling expert Shako Bentinidis. Since then he has been on the lookout for a new coach to guide him.

Fissures were visible between Shako and Punia after the 2019 World Wrestling Championships. But Punia decided not to switch to another coach as it could hamper his Tokyo Olympic preparations. He eventually won bronze in the men’s 65kg freestyle event at the Olympic Games last year.

Since June 2021, Punia has been nursing a knee niggle, which he braved to bag the prized Olympic medal.

The niggle could be an area of concern for Maan as Punia will be gearing up for the World Ranking Series scheduled to be held from February 24-27 in Turkey.

“Punia has recovered from a knee injury," Maan said. "He is healthy. But we have to take precautions as there are several important competitions this year."

The Asian Wrestling Championships in April, the Commonwealth Games in August and the Asian Games in September are the other important events the Indian wrestlers will be competing in.

The World Championships and the Asian Games are within a gap of 10 days in September. Punia and his coach will have to take a call to skip one of the above events.

“Since Punia is the defending champion, he will certainly compete at the Hangzhou Asian Games in China,” Maan said. “Close to the World Championships we will take a final call whether to compete or skip the world meet.”
Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee
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