Deepak Punia: The real achievement will be landing a medal at Olympics

India's Deepak Punia, who won a silver in 86kg category at the World Championships in September, was named 'Junior Wrestler of the Year' by UWW recently.

Deepak Punia has been named ‘Junior Wrestler of the Year’ by United World Wrestling (UWW).   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Shortly after resuming his training following a bout with dengue, Deepak Punia was pleasantly surprised to know that he has been named ‘Junior Wrestler of the Year’ by United World Wrestling (UWW).

Deepak had bagged the 86kg freestyle crown in Tallinn, Estonia, August last year to become India’s first World junior champion in 18 years. On Tuesday, he became the first Indian wrestler and second from the country to get the international federation honour.

Late Yashvir Singh, who was adjudged ‘Coach of the Year’ in 2010 by the apex body (then FILA), was the first Indian to be recognized by the international federation. Yashvir had guided Sushil Kumar, the only elite World champion wrestler from the country, to claim the 66kg freestyle gold medal.

Deepak, a former World cadet champion, said the UWW honour would encourage him to do better. “It’s a great honour and a morale booster. But right now, all my focus is directed towards the preparations for the Tokyo Olympics. The real achievement will be landing a medal in the Olympics. That will give me true satisfaction,” Deepak told Sportstar.

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The 21-year-old who missed out on a rare treble when he pulled out of the 86kg final against Hassan Yazdani of Iran due to a leg injury and settled for the silver medal at the elite World championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, in September last year said he would concentrate on getting back to full fitness.

“I worked on my recovery after the leg injury. Then, dengue happened. Now, I am fine and have started my training. I have put on some weight, so I have to shed a few kilos before I switch to intense training.”

Deepak said he would continue his training under his personal coach Virender Kumar and foreign coach Murad Gaidarov, a 2003 World Championships silver medallist and a 2008 Beijing Olympics silver medallist, who was hired by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) with support from Tata Motors.

“I am satisfied with the few days of training with Gaidarov. We worked on ground wrestling and speed work. Will resume training with him from December 21,” he said.

The wrestler from Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi aims at participating in an exposure trip in Italy and the Asian championships at home in the run-up to the Olympics.