"Love and support by Indians give me strength to always do well," says Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia
In an exclusive interview with The Bridge, wrestler Bajrang Punia talks about the love and respect he received after winning an Olympic medal
Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia is the toast of the entire nation after winning a medal in Tokyo Olympics.
After arriving in India, Bajrang Punia shares his experience with The Bridge on how people are showering their love and respect after winning the Olympic bronze as wherever he is going people are thronging in huge numbers to get his small glimpse and he is overwhelmed to see all these.
"A big thanks to all the citizens of the country for giving us so much love and respect. Their love gives us strength to do even better for the country." said Olympic bronze medallist Bajrang Punia while speaking exclusively to The Bridge.
After the Tokyo Olympics got over Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited all the Olympians for breakfast and spoke to almost everyone personally.
The Prime Minister spoke particularly to Bajrang Punia and asked him about his performance as well as his knee injury and that conversation gave immense happiness to the grappler.
"It was an amazing feeling as Prime Minister Narendra Modi was talking to every player who participated in the Tokyo Olympics individually and was trying to ask and know whether anyone is suffering from an injury or anyone is having any sort of problem. All these things feel so good." expressed Bajrang Punia while talking exclusively to The Bridge.
Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia was one of India's brightest medal hopes to go into the Olympics and was expected to win a gold medal despite the fact that he fights in one of the toughest weight categories which is the 65 Kg weight category in freestyle wrestling, where according to Bajrang Punia the world-class grapplers of lower weight category increase their weight and fight and the top wrestlers of heavier weight categories also reduce their weight and fight.
But despite Bajrang being one of the favourites, failed to win a gold medal as he lost to Azerbaijan's Haji Aliyev 5-12 and later on had to fight to settle for a bronze medal by beating Daulet Niyazbekov in the bronze medal bout 8-0.
"The idea was to perform and do well in all the bouts that I played but that did not happen but in the semi-final, my coaches and the President of Wrestling Federation of India said that you have to train hard, fight well and give your best." Olympic medallist Bajrang Punia said in an exclusive conversation with The Bridge.
One of the reasons why Bajrang Punia failed to win an Olympic gold which has still eluded India in wrestling was his knee injury and this was one of the reasons why he failed to perform up to his own potential. Even now he is recovering from his injured knee and going through the rehabilitation process.
All these have kept him out off the wrestling mat after winning the priceless Olympic medal.
"Right now I am going through rehab of my knee as it got injured and that is why I am away from practice. Once my knee recovers completely then I will be back on the mat and start my practice again. Right now I am giving my knee a break." said Bajrang Punia when asked about his injury status.
Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia has been the country's most consistent wrestler over the years winning gold medals in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and medals in World Wrestling Championship.
Playing in his maiden Olympics in Tokyo he bagged a bronze medal adding to India's tally of 7 medals in Tokyo which is the country's best-ever medal haul in the showpiece event to date. His medal along with Ravi Kumar Dahiya's silver medal means takes India's tally to 7 medals in wrestling in the Olympics overall.
After clinching medals in every major event, Bajrang Punia's hunger has still not waned as he has set his eyes on Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World wrestling championship next year.
"Next year is a very important year for us as we have Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championship and we will train hard and give our best to win medals for India again," said Bajrang Punia who has already won a medal in all these events before.
Indeed Bajrang Punia will target a gold medal in both Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in 2022 as he is the defending champion in his weight category.
Moreover, he will eye for a World wrestling championship gold next year as he is the only Indian wrestler to win 3 medals which include won 2 bronze medals and 1 silver medal but no gold medal till now. If he does so then he will be only the second Indian wrestler after Sushil Kumar to achieve it.