Star wrestler Bajrang Punia has let go of his longtime coach Shako Ventinidis of Georgia just nine months before the Olympics, as reported by The Tribune. The World Number 1 wrestler in the 65kg category had a tumultuous relationship with the coach, which could not be salvaged anymore. The decision was conveyed to Bentinidis on Tuesday.
Punia seems to have already found a replacement for the Georgian, with Cuba's Yandro Quintana, a gold medalist in the 2004 Athens Olympics in the 60kg division, likely to come on board. However, his appointment is not confirmed, with Punia also looking at Soslan Ramonov, a gold medal winner in the 65kg category in the Rio Olympics. Ramonov has not played this year, but might stage a comeback, hence, doubts remain on whether he can be Punia's coach.
What went wrong between Punia and Ventinidis?
During the recent World Championships in Nur Sultan, Punia lost the semis after Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov was declared the winner on tie-breaker as both finished their bout with nine points. Punia's coach challenged a decision by the judge to hand Niyazbekov four points for a move, but with the challenge getting overruled, Punia conceded a point.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) felt that this decision cost the Indian the semis and the gold medal. He was then hauled up in an impromptu meeting after the team returned to India.
This is not the only time that Bentinidis has embarrassed the wrestling federation and Punia. In July this year, he questioned his ward's ability to focus throughout the bout, and even suggested that stardom has affected his game.
“Wrestling is a difficult sport. Bajrang was a good wrestler before but not the best. Now he is jumping fast, he has got a name as well. He is a star now, so it becomes difficult to focus as he is at another level," Bentinidis had said.
He also threw a fit of anger in the recent World Championships after the United World Wrestling officials forgot to hand over his accreditation card to him.