Bronze medallist Bajrang: 'Staying away from mat due to knee injury affected my performance'

Unhappy with bronze, Bajrang sets sights on Paris 2024. He also reveals he risked injury by removing knee brace to move better for bronze medal match

India's Bajrang Punia, right, competes against Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekov during their men's freestyle 65kg wrestling bronze medal match at the Tokyo Olympics on Saturday.   -  AP

Tokyo Olympics bronze medal winning wrestler Bajrang Punia is keen to perform better and bag a gold in the 2024 Paris Games.

Dedicating his medal in the men’s 65kg freestyle category to the Covid warriors, Bajrang said his knee injury during the build-up phase affected his performance in the Olympics.

“I am unhappy because I could not rise up to the expectations of our countrymen. I stayed 20-25 days away from the mat due to my kne injury and it affected my performance. I have three years for the next Games and will try to win the gold medal in Paris,” Bajrang said during a virtual press conference on Sunday.

READ: Bajrang Punia wins wrestling bronze at Tokyo Olympics

“I was advised to rest, but I could not rest. The doctor advised me to come back to India and then go to Tokyo, but there was the risk of Covid associated with travelling. I asked him to advise some rehab. My physio Manish treated me.

“In Russia, I did exercises three-four times a day for rehab without sleeping during the day time. The doctor and physio said the more I exercise the more strength I would gain. So, I kept doing the exercises.”

Bajrang thanked the Indian embassy in Russia for its support. “I want to thank the Indian embassy. We were training at a small place and the things we needed were not available there. The embassy people provided us with everything we needed.”

The champion wrestler, who fought wearing a knee cap on the first day, shared how he approached his bouts during the competition.

“Since pain was there in the knee, my support staff said it would be risky to fight without any protection. But in the last bout I said I cannot keep my knee binding as I do not feel free while moving around. If I pick up an injury then it will heal up later. So there was no tape on my knee in the bronze medal match as I was not comfortable with it. I just wanted to win a medal.

ALSO READ: Neeraj Chopra's Olympic gold gives Indian athletics new lease of life

“I did not want to tell my parents about it but they knew it from the TV. After my semifinal loss, my mother said her focus was on my leg rather than on my wrestling. They advised me to forget about the loss and focus on the bronze medal match.”

Bajrang's focus now is on rehab and training to get ready for the World championships in October.

For more updates, follow Sportstar on :