Yogeshwar Dutt is delighted that his protege Bajrang Punia has retained the 65kg freestyle gold medal that the veteran wrestler had won at the Incheon Asian Games four years ago.
At the 2014 Asiad, Dutt, a London Olympics bronze medallist, had ended India’s 28-year-old gold medal drought in wrestling by securing the 65kg title. Punia’s feat in Jakarta was equally memorable for Dutt.
“I am very happy that Bajrang defended the gold medal for the country. It had come after a gap of 28 long years and he continued to assert India’s supremacy,” Bajrang told Sportstar .
Reminiscing on his long association with Punia, Dutt said he always enjoyed training with the youngster and was elated to see him on the path of progress.
“Bajrang is a dedicated wrestler from his childhood. Since the time he joined the akhara as a 13-14-year-old, he has never backed out of training. He was passionate about wrestling and did equal amount of training as me at such a young age.
“He always showed his keen desire to learn and improve. His stamina is one of his biggest assets. Besides, he has the hunger for success,” Dutt said.
Impressed with Punia’s dedication, Dutt took it upon himself to teach the nuances of wrestling to the rookie and helped him grow as a professional, first at the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi and then as a teammate at the national camp in Sonepat.
“Since 2013, when he won a World Championships bronze medal, Bajrang’s progress has been remarkable. At that time, I switched to 65kg and he wrestled in 60kg (which used to be my weight). However, I always intended to groom him to settle into the 65kg, which is the best-suited Olympic weight for him.”
Dutt said he will be doubly happy if Punia went one step further and won a gold medal at the Olympics. “Our target is to see Bajrang win the gold medal in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. I am sure he will give his best to realise the dream,” said Dutt.
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