"Main pehle bhi yeh bol chuka hoon, jaan hain to jaahan hai" (I have said earlier as well that as long we are alive, everything will be in place) - the popular Hindi proverb appropriately fits Bajrang Punia's motto right now. The 27-year-old India's ace wrestler who had decided to take a break from social media to prepare for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics made his return to Twitter and Facebook once again just to help people amid the grim situation of the second COVID wave in India.
The World Championship silver medallist, who was last seen in action at the Asian Wrestling Championship in May winning a silver medal, is back in India and has been training in Haryana and been training at the Sonipat Sports Authority of India (SAI) campus. He decided to miss a short training stint in Bulgaria due to a niggle in the elbow that cropped up during the Asian Championships in Almaty. "I had planned to go to Bulgaria for the camp, but because of the injury I suffered on my elbow during the Asian Championship I gave it a miss. I am in the last stage of recovery. It's much better, I think I will be able to resume my training full-fledged in three or four days."
Bajrang has been always vocal about social issues in the country. He had donated his six months salary towards the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and called for the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics, saying the mega event will lose sheen if it goes ahead in the absence of nations who have already pulled out. He takes it up because he believes that the country and its people come first. "Not only players, I feel everyone in the country should come forward and help other fellow countrymen at a time of crisis like this. Someone who knows me or follows me knows I have always stood behind people of the country and been vocal about helping them. Everyone in the country is facing trouble because of the virus. And as a responsible citizen, I will not back down and help as much as possible. I request everyone to step up in these hours of crisis."
Since the last couple of days, Bajrang has actively amplifying COVID-related issues to help the needy. Apart from continuing his training for the Tokyo Olympics, he feels the as a responsible Indian, the fight against this virus should be also an important priority.
"People have been reaching out to me for help, and I am also spending time to amplify their problems so that they get highlighted. I have been continuing my training because I cannot skip that. The Olympics are just three months away. But we have to save our people from the looming danger we are facing, otherwise I wouldn't have made a return to my social media handles. Not only by winning a medal, if my appeal is heard by at least 10 people, I think I will be able to say that I have helped my country. Olympics will be happening in 2024 as well, but people's lives are more important right now. The situation is worse than the previous year and will have to fight with it patiently," says the grappler.
When asked about his mental well-being in the current scenario, Bajrang responds, " I am trying to spread a bit of positivity and stay strong beside my family as well, and motivating them saying that this too shall pass. Also, helping people gives me satisfaction. Even if I am able to help two people, it will lift my morale. So that's what I have been doing. I urge others also to at least use their social media handles to do that. There are many needs right now, oxygen, food, medicines, hospital beds. One can help in any way they want."
Bajrang Punia believes everyone should step up in helping nation fight COVID-19 (Source: UWW)
Warsaw, Poland will be hosting the second Wrestling Ranking Series this year, after the first one concluded in Rome. Bajrang wishes to participate in the series but only if conditions in India improve. "I have to plan it accordingly in this second wave of the pandemic. A lockdown may soon be imposed, flights bare being banned. I will have a talk with the federation and then will decide my course of action," says Bajrang.
Bajrang Punia remains one of the top-medal contenders in wrestling at the Tokyo Olympics, who qualified for the Games in the 2019 World Championships, where he won a bronze medal. The highly anticipated 65kg final bout at the Asian Wrestling Championships proved to be anti-climatic with the Indian pulling out of the final due to an injury. He was scheduled to face his nemesis Takuto Otoguro. After a fine run by the Indian, where he beat Yongseok Jeong of South Korea and Mongolia's Bilguun Sarmandakh 3-0 and 7-0, respectively, Bajrang skipped the final settling with a silver medal owing to the elbow injury during the quarter-finals. "I was doing well in Asian Championships and was well-planned to face Otuguro in the final. It was touted as the biggest match. I wasn't able to perform in the final because of the injury. My coaches also advised me to skip it because they anticipated if my injury turns worse, I would not make it to the Tokyo Olympics, I listened to my coaches which I thought was the best thing to do," concluded the wrestler.