Unintimidated

Bajrang Punia was named the Sportman of the Year (Other Individual Sport) at the Sportstar Aces Awards supported by the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, in association with MRF.

Punia lost in the final of the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, but he said the defeat has taught him a lot.   -  PTI

"Any award is a matter of pride for a sportsperson. I am thrilled to be chosen by Sportstar for this award,” said Bajrang Punia, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medallist, who’s now set his eyes on the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games.

Punia has also been training in Georgia, where his coach Shako Bentinidis is from. “He says, ‘since we are working together, my home town is your home town.’ So Georgia is my second home. I get to learn a lot by training there. I get good sparring partners and learn from them,” said the wrestler from Haryana’s Jhajjar.

He credits his training with Bentinidis to his improvement. “There were a lot of bouts which I used to lose after being so close to victory. I started to win those close bouts,” he said.

Punia lost in the final of the 2018 World Wrestling Championships in Budapest, but he said the defeat has taught him a lot. “Had I won the title, I would have thought that I was the best wrestler in the world. So, in a way, that defeat is motivating me to do even better and be the best,” he said. “It taught me that my leg defence was not good enough and I needed to work more on it. My coach says if you improve your leg defence, you can be the best in the world.”

Punia’s 65kg weight category is one of the toughest at the Olympics, but he said he doesn’t “look at who is easy to beat or who is difficult.”

In addition, his participation in the Pro Wrestling League has increased his motivation. “It helps a lot. I get to compete with some top wrestlers. For example, I won my bout against (three-time world champion and Olympic medallist) Haji Aliyev. I spot my weaknesses and work on them,” he said.