Bajrang Punia’s support staff nudges him to another world championships medal

Bajrang injured his head during his first bout against Cuban Alejandro Valdes in the pre-quarterfinals and lost to the USA’s Yianni (John) Diakomihalis in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

India’s Bajrang Punia, right, and Puerto Rico’s Sebastian C Rivera compete in their men’s freestyle 65 kg bronze medal match during the Wrestling World Championships in Belgrade on Sunday.

India’s Bajrang Punia, right, and Puerto Rico’s Sebastian C Rivera compete in their men’s freestyle 65 kg bronze medal match during the Wrestling World Championships in Belgrade on Sunday. | Photo Credit: Darko Vojinovic

Bajrang injured his head during his first bout against Cuban Alejandro Valdes in the pre-quarterfinals and lost to the USA’s Yianni (John) Diakomihalis in the quarterfinals on Saturday.

A pep talk from the support staff lifted Olympic medallist wrestler Bajrang Punia’s morale and helped him perform two come-from-behind wins to secure his fourth World championships medal in Belgrade late on Sunday night.

Bajrang injured his head during his first bout against Cuban Alejandro Valdes in the pre-quarterfinals and lost to the USA’s Yianni (John) Diakomihalis in the quarterfinals on Saturday. The Indian, who fought with a bandage around his head, returned to medal contention when Diakomihalis made it to the 65kg final.

“We worked hard during the camp in Michigan. Bajrang’s confidence was down after he got injured. The physio and I gave him a pep talk and reminded him of his past performances,” coach Sujeet Maan, who works closely with Bajrang at the National camp, told The Hindu.

When Bajrang returned to the mat on Sunday, he was ready to give his best. The 28-year-old rallied from 0-4 to beat Armenian Individual World Cup winner Vazgen Tevanyan 7-6 in the repechage round and fought back from 0-6 to record an 11-9 victory against Pan-American silver medallist Sebastian Rivera of Puerto Rico in the bronze medal match.

This was Bajrang’s third bronze medal (2013-60kg, 2019-65kg, 2022-65kg). He also bagged a silver (2018-65kg).

Maan said Bajrang would now work on some areas of his game. “We need to work more on his leg defence. Speed is another area. Bajrang’s next target is the World Cup in the USA in December. He needs to compete in select events. A lot of wrestling is left in Bajrang,” said Maan.

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