Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia focussed on health ahead of 2023 season

Wrestling - Commonwealth Games: Day 8
Bajrang Punia wants to maintain his health through the 2023 season

India’s Olympic bronze medalist and star freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia has set his eyes on the 2023 season that will feature the World Wrestling Championships and the postponed 2022 Asian Games in China.

According to Bajrang Punia, the 2023 season will be important as the World Wrestling Championships scheduled to be held in Russia from September 16 to 24 will be an Olympic qualification event.

“Have started my off-season training to prepare myself mentally and physically for the challenging 2023 season."
“The main focus in the coming months will be to stay healthy and achieve good results during the 2023 World Wrestling Championships and Asian Games in September.”

Bajrang Punia is the defending Asian Games champion in the men’s 65kg freestyle event. However, his first major competition of 2023 will be the Asian Championships in March. Since there is no national camp, the Olympic bronze medalist has shifted his training base to Delhi.

“I am practicing at the Railways Wrestling Training Center in Delhi under the guidance of my personal coach Sujit Maan. As of now, there is no plan to go abroad and train.”

Punia sustained a head injury on his way to winning bronze in the men’s 65kg freestyle event at the 2022 World Wrestling Championships held in September in Serbia. He also had to overcome a knee injury in the build-up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games held last year in Japan.

“I have fully recovered from the head injury sustained in September during the World Wrestling Championships. There is no issue of any niggle.”

To avoid burnout, the Haryana wrestler will compete in select events to peak at the right time. Hence, he has no plans to compete in the upcoming Grand Prix Wrestling event scheduled to be held in Uttarakhand on November 13.

However, depending on the schedule, there is a possibility of Punia competing in the national wrestling championships.

“The national championships will be a good platform to evaluate fitness."

Punia will also compete in the Asian Championships scheduled to be held in 2023 March.

Clash of dates may affect Bajrang Punia

The World Wrestling Championships and the postponed 2022 Asian Games are both scheduled for 2023 September. A clash of dates is a worrying factor for Bajrang Punia’s coach Sujit Maan. He said there should have been a gap as both events are important.

“The Asian Games will start immediately after the World Championships, which is an Olympic qualification event. There should have been a gap between the two important competitions of 2023 as the majority of the top Asian wrestlers will compete to win the Olympic Games berth in the first qualification event as well as Asian Games.”

While Bajrang Punia will be keen to stamp his authority at the World Wrestling Championships, he will certainly look forward to retaining his title at the Asian Games.

However, the change in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification system by the United World Wrestling, the global governing body in wrestling, is another challenge that wrestlers will face. This time, the world championships will offer five Olympic qualification berths in each of the weight categories instead of six.

“Four medal winners at the World Championships will get an automatic qualification. The winner of fifth and sixth place will fill the last slot for the Paris Olympics quota places in September,” Maan said. “Less number of Olympic quota means competition will be more tough.”

Quick Links