Deepak Punia: World Championships silver an inspiration for Olympics

After being forced to withdraw from the men's freestyle 86kg gold-medal bout, Deepak Punia says the silver he's won will "inspire" him to do well in Olympics.

An ankle injury forced Deepak Punia to settle for silver in World Wrestling Championships.   -  SPECIAL ARRANGEMENT

Even after being forced to withdraw from the men’s freestyle 86kg gold medal bout in the World Wrestling Championships on Sunday due to an ankle injury, Deepak Punia took heart from his excellent performance in Nur-Sultan to focus on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Deepak, a former Wold cadet champion, had claimed the World junior title in August last and was eyeing to corner the rare glory of being an elite World champion as well. However, the injury in his left leg and a swollen eye spoilt his plan. He ended up being the fourth Indian to secure a silver medal after Bishambhar Singh (1967), Amit Kumar (2013) and Bajrang Punia (2018).

“My leg is swollen up and it is hurting. The eye is swollen too. I picked up both injuries during the first round (fight against Kazakh opponent Adilet Davlumbayev). That’s why I chose not to fight in the final,” Deepak told Sportstar from Nur-Sultan on Sunday.

Deepak had defied an injured shoulder and a cut above his eye to bag the World junior title, but the injury in Nur-Sultan was too painful to fight Iranian Hasan Yazdanichara in the final.

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“Throughout the night Deepak was running fever because of the pain. The injury had become more painful in the morning. I advised him not to take risk as it could have aggravated the injury and adversely impacted his Olympic participation,” said Virender Kumar, Deepak’s coach at the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi.

Deepak, who also booked an Olympic quota place, sounded positive. “My morale was high after the World junior championships and my preparation was good. The silver medal here is the result of my hard work. This will inspire me to do well in the Olympics.”

The youngster agreed that luck was on his side. “I was lucky to have been placed in the upper half of the draw. The lower half was tougher (with the presence of wrestlers from traditional countries like Iran, Hungary, Korea, Russia, Uzbekistan, Georgia, China, Japan and USA). But I found tough competition in every bout and had to carry on despite the pain.”

Virender patted his student on the back. “Deepak is an obedient student, who learns from his mistakes quickly. He and his partner Ravi Dahiya are partners and their life revolves around wrestling without any distractions. Happy to see their success and hope they can repeat it in the Olympics,” said Virender.

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