Bajrang Punia, India’s 28-year-old Olympic bronze medalist in freestyle wrestling, will have to enhance his competitive fitness in the coming months to face challenges at the 2022 Commonwealth Games and the 2022 Asian Games, says national wrestling coach Sujeet Mann.
“Supreme competitive fitness is a must to score points in major international competitions,” Mann, who is also a personal coach for Punia, said.
“Irrespective of experience, the scope for scoring points diminishes in cutthroat competitions if the athlete is not fully prepared for high level competitions.”
The Birmingham Commonwealth Games in July and the Hangzhou Asian Games in September are the two major competitions Punia aims to retain his titles.
Bajrang Punia returned to the mat after gap of nearly nine months
Earlier this week, Bajrang Punia returned to the mat after a gap of nearly nine months post the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games held last year in Japan.
India’s star wrestler was a bit sluggish and settled for a silver medal at the just concluded Asian Championships held in Mongolia. Bajrang lost the gold medal bout 1-3 to Rahman Mousa Amouzadkhalili of Iran, a world junior champion in the 61 kg category.
Sujeet Maan said Bajrang wasn’t at his best in Mongolia in terms of fitness as he has been struggling with injuries.
“spate of injuries in the last 10 months has played havoc with his training sessions. The most recent was a knee injury in January this year,” Mann said.
Bajrang’s next test will be the national selection trials in May for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
“We have another three months to iron out gray areas to thoroughly prepare to defend the Commonwealth Games title,” the coach said.
After competing at the Asian Championships, all the athletes are back at the national camp in Sonepat, Haryana. Mann has prepared a future roadmap and will discuss it in detail with Bajrang this weekend.
“Fitness is one of the parameters that can’t be ignored. One of our priorities will be to regain the lost fitness as there is no issue of niggle,” the coach said.
Last month, Bajrang aired his views on the lack of personal physios in the camp.
“The issue of physio has been sorted out,” an official from the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) said.
The Indian wrestlers generally do well at the Commonwealth Games but the Asian Games will be a challenging task. Bajrang is the 2018 Jakarta Asian Games champion in men’s 65 kg.
“We have five good months to prepare for the Asian Games in China,” Mann said.