Pooja Dhanda: World C'ship gave feeling of being one of the best, can bag Olympic medal

Pooja is rated as a bright prospect among Indian woman wrestlers for the Tokyo Olympics next year.

Bronze medalist Pooja Dhanda during the medal ceremony for the Women's Freestyle 57 kg at the 2018 Commonwealth Games on April 13.   -  Getty Images

Pooja Dhanda, who hit the headlines by claiming a bronze medal in the World championships in Budapest last year, has finished her assignment for MP Yodha in the fourth edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) and has shifted her focus to the preparations for the Olympic qualifiers.

Considering her talent and giant-killing reputation, Pooja is rated as a bright prospect among Indian woman wrestlers for the Tokyo Olympics next year. The affable wrestler spoke about her past performances and Olympics aspirations in a chat with Sportstar.

Year 2018 was an excellent period for you as you won the Commonwealth Games silver medal and the World championships bronze. Are you happy that at last you could do some justice to your talent?

When I got a medal in the Commonwealth Games, it was not such a great feeling as our wrestlers had previously won gold and silver medals from there. I did not have much pressure but I was disappointed not to land a medal in the Asian Games. Since I had missed out on a bronze medal there, the World championships performance gave me some satisfaction. I could show my talent and secure a medal in a bigger stage.

After getting a medal in the World championships, do you think you can now do the same in the Olympics?

There were several big wrestlers in the World championships and I had a tough pool. To get a medal in such a scenario is always a confidence booster. That gives me the feeling that I am among the best in the world and can win a medal in the Olympics.

What are your plans in the run-up to 2020 Olympics?

My planning is on track. With the help of JSW and Wrestling Federation of India I have planned everything for this year. There is no dearth of resources. The idea is to train abroad so that I can work on my shortcomings and get used to the foreign wrestlers. My weight category is tough, but my preparation is good. Done with the PWL, I will go abroad and train.

What are the areas of improvement for you?

I have to work on my leg defence. I did that after the Asian Games and got the benefit. Still, I need to make it better.

What is your support system?

I am very lucky that my family, including my parents and brother, supports me. Because of them I have reached so far.

I had a ligament tear during the National camp in 2015. I had a surgery and that took away 2015 and 2016. Again I had an injury and again I had to go through a surgery following which I got well.

After wasting two years due to injury, making a comeback and winning a big medal was not easy. My family has always been supportive and kept me positive. Whenever I had doubts, they used to back me.

How do you rate PWL and how has it helped you in your career?

PWL has given me a second life. It gave me the biggest opportunity to become a better wrestler. After the injury, I made a comeback on this stage and beat top wrestlers of the world. It enhanced my confidence and I could get a World championships medal. I compete here with a free mind. It gives us opportunity to see where we stand in comparison to foreign wrestlers.