Bentinidis to continue as Bajrang Punia's coach

WFI agreed to retain Punia's coach only if he agreed to come under the Federation. It also appointed Murad Gaidarov to train Deepak Punia and Ravi Kumar

Bajrang Punia with coach Shako Bentinidis.   -  Special Arrangement

 

The hiring-and-firing saga in Indian wrestling came to an official end with the WFI officially confirming the continuation of Shako Bentinidis to train Olympic medal hopeful Bajrang Punia here on Wednesday.

There had been reports of Punia firing the Georgian and seeking a replacement coach last week but with just nine months left, the Wrestling Federation of India has decided to bring Bentinidis under its wings instead and continue with the arrangement.

Bentinidis had earlier been contracted with JSW and hired by them as Punia’s personal coach.

This time around, however, he would be under the federation’s direct control and paid by them as well, a sum of $5000 approx. The 25-year old Punia had, in fact, even trained with Cuban Wilfredo Garcia Quintana for a few days in Sonepat but finally is said to have decided against changing coaches.

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Under Bentinidis, who has been with Punia for about two years now, the wrestler has reached the top spot in the 65kg in the world and is among the biggest hopes for an Indian medal at the 2020 Olympics.

The WFI was reportedly upset at Bentinidis’ behaviour during the recent World Championships and his challenge at a crucial moment during his semifinal bout that the Indian lost before winning bronze.

All that, though, appears to have been put behind. 

“The most important thing for the athlete at the moment is continuity and we have no issues with Shako being contracted to the WFI instead of us. As long as it is in the best interest of the wrestler, which we believe it is, who signs the contract with the coach is immaterial. We are only glad that with the Olympics so close, the training won’t be affected,” JSW’s head of sports excellence and scouting Manisha Malhotra told Sportstar, adding that JSW would continue to support Punia in any way required.

Meanwhile, the WFI has also finalised the services of Belarussian Murad Gaidarov for Ravi Kumar and Deepak Punia, the former winning bronze and the latter India’s lone silver at the World Championships.

The Beijing Olympics silver medallist is likely to work on both the physical and mental aspects of the two, considered among India’s medal hopes at Tokyo.

“WFI’s aim is to ensure each athlete preparing for the Olympics gets the best coaching and support staff. In that respect, we have ensured that our three best freestyle wrestlers have whatever they need,” WFI president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said.