Bajrang ready for World Championships despite less practice

India's star wrestler Bajrang Punia is confident of success at the upcoming World Championships despite getting less time to prepare.

India wrestler Bajrang Punia said he is not keen on participating in the two freestyle events in Europe next month.   -  Wrestling TV

Not getting any competition before the World Championships is not ideal but India’s top wrestler Bajrang Punia says neither is lining up for any or every event amid a raging pandemic and he would rather go straight to the big event, albeit a bit short on match practice.

The United World Wrestling cancelled the junior worlds but is hopeful that senior championships will be held in Belgrade, Serbia from December 12-20 despite rising COVID-19 cases in Europe.

The Indians are currently training at the Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Sonepat centre.

“It is very good that we are back at training. It isn’t that we were out of rhythm because we were training at our homes during the lockdown. But that cannot be compared to what one can do at the camp when we train on mat,” Bajrang said in a SAI release.

The men’s camp began at the SAI centre from September 1.

”...but we will only know our level and where we stand when we compete. A player needs to play otherwise they will never know where they stand,” Bajrang acknowledged.

Bajrang Punia: Nation's expectations a source of motivation, not pressure  

There are two men’s freestyle international events scheduled in Poland (November 4-8) and Russia (November 7-8) but Bajrang told PTI that they are not keen to compete there.

“At these events, any number of wrestlers can come but at the Worlds only one wrestler in each category will be there, so I don’t think it’s prudent to travel to either Russia or Poland,” the 65kg category wrestler said.

“We are not sure if even the Worlds will be held. We are hearing that fresh coronavirus cases are increasing in Europe.”

It means that if, at all, the world championship is held, wresters will jump into the biggest event on the UWW calendar straight from training without any prior competition.

“So what, we have to start from somewhere and since everyone is sailing in the same boat, it is ok. Olympics is the target,” said Bajrang, one of the three men’s freestyle wrestlers from the country to qualify for the Tokyo Games.

National coach Jagmander Singh also said getting to competition is important.

“From the time training restarted to now, the wrestlers have improved considerably...The true test of where the wrestlers stand will only come when they participate in competitions,” he said.

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