Deepak Punia celebrates victory of grit over pain

A product of Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium that gave the country iconic wrestlers like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, newly-crowned 86kg freestyle World junior champion Deepak Punia said his was a victory of grit over pain.

Deepak Punia is the first wrestler from the country to win a World junior gold after Ramesh Kumar (69kg) and Palwinder Cheema (130kg) in 2001.   -  Special Arrangement

A product of Delhi’s Chhatrasal Stadium that gave the country iconic wrestlers like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, newly-crowned 86kg freestyle World junior champion Deepak Punia said his was a victory of grit over pain.

A World cadet champion three years ago, Punia was troubled by a shoulder injury which he picked up during his hard-fought win against Miriani Maisuradze of Georgia in the semifinals at Tallinn, Estonia. A cut near an eye was another distraction.

However, the appeal of the yellow metal was too strong a motivation for Punia, who rallied to beat Russian Alik Shebzukhov in the final.

“Even though I had a shoulder injury in the semifinals, I was determined to give my best in the final and break the country’s long wait for a gold medal… I had a cut in one of my eyes, but I put ice, applied pain-relieving ointment (on the shoulder) and went out to fight with the sole aim of winning the gold medal… My good training and preparation helped me,” Punia, who had secured a silver medal last year, told Sportstar from Tallinn.

He was the first wrestler from the country to win a World junior gold after Ramesh Kumar (69kg) and Palwinder Cheema (130kg) in 2001.

Punia, hailing from Chhara village of Jhajjar district in Haryana, was delighted to have made his family proud. “I belong to a poor family. My parents are too simple to even operate a phone. So, I informed my sister about my victory and she spread the news. Everybody is so happy.”

The 20-year-old, who has already established himself at the elite level and has been selected for the World championships in Nur-Sultan in Kazakhstan in October, feels the World junior crown will be a morale-booster for him.

“It feels good. This will boost my confidence when I compete in bigger events. Now, I will focus on the preparations for the World championships, which will serve as an Olympic qualifying event,” said Punia, hoping to emulate his idol and lone Indian World champion (at elite level) Sushil Kumar.