Bajrang Punia gets top billing at World Championships

India’s top grappler Bajrang Punia has been handed the top billing in the men’s 65kg freestyle category at the World Championships, which begins in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan from September 14.

Bajrang, who is in Russia for training ahead of the championships, had bagged a silver in the last edition and a bronze in 2013 in 60kg.   -  PTI

Ace wrestler Bajrang Punia has been seeded number one in men’s freestyle 65kg for the World championships to be held in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, from September 14 to 22.

Bajrang, who won a bronze medal in 60kg in 2013 and a silver in 65kg in Budapest last year, aims to become the second Indian after Sushil Kumar (66kg FS, 2010) to win a gold medal in the World championships, which will also serve as an Olympic qualifying event.

“Training abroad has helped me grow as a wrestler. Sparring with some of the best names in Georgia, Russia and the USA has made me more aware of my opponents,” said Bajrang, who has been in Russia to fine-tune his game.

 

“Having my own team of coach, physio, trainer and sports science support staff has benefited me.”

The 25-year-old was pleased with the arrangement at the Olympic Cycling Centre in Saryarka to help wrestlers prepare for the mega event. “It’s a very good initiative by United World Wrestling (UWW). An acclimatisation camp will help all,” said Punia.

The return of Sushil Kumar (74kg) to the Worlds after eight years cannot be taken lightly. The two-time Olympic medallist will rely on his class while seeking a strong finish.

Rahul Aware has grabbed the second seed in 61kg, while World junior champion Deepak Punia has been seeded fourth in 86kg.

Even as most of the Indians have left for the event, Asian Games gold medallist and World No.6 Vinesh Phogat has stayed back to focus on her training.

Vinesh (53kg) and Rio Olympics bronze  medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg) do not figure among the to-four seeded wrestlers.

However, Seema -- whose gold medal at Yasar Dogu event propelled her to No. 3 in the world -- is seedd No.2 in women's 50kg and is a medal prospect.