Bajrang Punia spoke about his wrestling career and India's medal prospects at the Olympics during an exclusive interaction with Indranil Basu on Sportskeeda Live.
On being asked if many wrestlers would be at a disadvantage as the last competition was held in February, Bajrang Punia replied in the affirmative while reasoning that the grapplers come to know of their weaknesses only during tournaments.
"Definitely, there will be some difficulty. Because if there were tournaments, we would have kept playing. Now since 4 months there have been no tournaments. Not only wrestlers, all athletes are at their homes. We do training daily, used to that earlier as well, but we come to know of our faults during tournaments only."
Bajrang Punia mentioned that he would have to chalk out his future itinerary in consultation with the coaches and the federation once the tournaments are scheduled again.
"Because training is only to understand what we can apply in our wrestling. So, once the matches start I need to discuss with coaches and federation which tournaments I need to participate in till the Olympics."
Bajrang Punia was further asked about his feelings when the Olympics got postponed after so much preparation having been done. He responded that although it was a setback as the wrestlers had prepared well, there was no alternative but to postpone the Games.
"We had prepared well for the Olympics and our performance was also good. But no one had prepared for Corona. After Corona hit the whole world, then saving lives was more important as Olympics can happen later also. When the Olympics had not been postponed, I was only following the instructions from our Government and the doctors."
Bajrang Punia preferred a positive outlook while stating that the postponement allowed him to iron out any chinks in his game.
"It was a good decision to postpone the Olympics by one year for all players because none of us were training. So our performnances would not have been consistent. So, we have got one year to work on our weak areas. So I am thinking positively that whatever has happened is for the good."
Bajrang Punia was also asked about India's medal prospects at the Olympics with the grappler himself being considered a guaranteed medallist. The supremely fit wrestler pointed out the exceptional performances of Deepak Punia, Ravi Kumar, Vinesh Phogat and himself at the World Championships, having qualified for the Olympics with a medal at the global event.
"If you have seen our performance at the World Championships, we had qualified with 4 medals - Deepak Punia, Ravi Kumar, Vinesh Phogat and me. This is the first time that 4 wrestlers have qualified with a medal."
Bajrang Punia observed that there would be fewer wrestlers in contention at the Olympics than at the World Championships, while acknowledging that only the best ones would be in action at the quadrennial event.
"At the Olympics, we have less wrestlers compared to World Championship. There will be 16 wrestlers at the Olympics, but whoever comes would have qualified and would be the best."
The Haryana grappler predicted that India could have won 3-4 medals in wrestling if the Olympics had been held this year, considering the performances of all the wrestlers.
"I feel if the Olympics had happened in August, we could have got 3-4 medals in wrestling. Because all the wrestlers were performing very well."
Bajrang Punia on the intense rivalry in the 65 kg weight category
On being asked about the competition between the top wrestlers in his weight category of 65 kg, where he is ranked 2nd in the world, Bajrang Punia replied that it is the toughest weight category in wrestling and that it is impossible to pick the best grappler amongst them.
"65 kg is the toughest weight category in wrestling. Because 74 kg and 65 are the two categories in between which a general human being falls. In 65 kg, you cannot point out one wrestler as the best, your ranking does not matter here, it is important that you get a medal in whichever tournament you participate in."
Bajrang Punia signed off by stating that it is practically impossible to predict a winner in the weight division, with more than a dozen wrestlers capable of beating each other.
"There are 14-15 wrestlers in the 65 kg category who can defeat each other. So you cannot pick the best player in this category unlike other weight categories. No one can tell who will become the champion."
Bajrang Punia is India's brightest medal prospect in wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics 2021. He is currently training at the JSW Centre in Bangalore with extended gym sessions and sparring with the youngsters at the academy.
Published 01 Aug 2020, 20:19 IST