'Ground work' of Indian wrestlers is very weak: Pooja Dhanda

Admitting that many Indian women wrestlers get outwitted by opponents’ gut-wrench technique, Pooja said their poor defence was due to the lack of training on the mat.

Pooja Dhanda going through a test at the Inspire Institute of Sport in Vijayanagara.   -  Special Arrangement

Indian wrestler Pooja Dhanda hopes to improve her defence in the run-up to the World Championships and the Olympics.

Admitting that many Indian women wrestlers get outwitted by opponents’ gut-wrench technique, the Worlds bronze medallist said their poor defence was due to the lack of ‘ground work’ (training on the mat).

“Indian wrestlers’ ground work is very weak. We have never done sessions on ground work. In foreign countries, they dedicate two sessions in a week to ground work. In India, wrestling in standing position gets priority.

“Even though I was leading in the Asian championship, the Chinese, who was not so good in standing position, made the most of a chance to beat me. Today's wrestling is about grabbing the chance on the ground. Our coaches have noticed this trend and our focus is shifting towards ground wrestling,” said Pooja during an interaction at the Inspire Institute of Sport.

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Pooja, however, said it would be tough to change one’s style. “Since the time I started wrestling, I have focused on wrestling in standing position. In the last one or two years, I have started giving attention to ground work. It is not so easy to defend or attack from such a position. When I have done something for 13 years, how can I learn a new thing in just two years?”

According to Pooja, who has beaten World and Olympic championships medallists in the Pro Wrestling League, her game had shown improvement. “Earlier, I used to concede points on gut-wrench in two seconds, now I can defend for 10-15 seconds. There is slow improvement. I have to focus on this.”

Pooja and Olympic bronze medallist Sakshi Malik have benefitted from spending time with French coach Fanel Carp of IIS.

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“He is teaching us some smart things. Suppose you are leading with two minutes to go, then how you can see off that time. In which zone you can be safe and in which zone you can be unsafe.

“My leg defence is weak in comparison to other sides of my game. He is working on that area. Normally, Chinese wrestlers go for single leg attacks and Japanese go for double leg attacks. When you get attacked on one leg, then there is a chance that you can counterattack. But when you get attacked on both legs, then first you have to defend yourself before going for an attack,” said Pooja.

The writer was in Vijayanagara on the invite of Inspire Institute of Sport.