Bajrang Punia happy to have won CWG 2022 gold

NEW DELHI: ‘Injury, ‘recovery’, ‘gold medal’. These three words were heard often when the floor was opened for questions to Bajrang Punia. A day earlier, Bajrang successfully defended his 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) wrestling gold.
He looked visibly tired. “Abhi so ke utha hu,” he replied to a question if he celebrated. It was almost like hearing someone finishing a routine work shift and catching up on some well-deserved sleep.
Bajrang conceded just two points on the way to his second Commonwealth Games in the 65kg weight category. But if someone mentioned the word ‘easy’ to him, his reply was pretty simple. “Nobody comes to the Commonwealth Games to lose.”


The Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist made a very interesting comparison between his two CWG gold medals. “In 2018 I did not have an Olympic medal, but I came here having won an Olympic medal.”
It suggests that, maybe somewhere down the line, reputation was at stake. And the Indian grapplers fought like that on the opening day of the wrestling event in Birmingham, with all six winning medals, including three golds won by Bajrang, Deepak Punia and Sakshi Malik.
Excerpts from a press conference was invited to:
Your first reaction..
It feels good to repeat 2018. The weaknesses after the Olympics that were there, I have improved on that.

Is the aggressive wrestler Bajrang finally back?
I have always played aggressive. People said, “Olympics ke baad wo Bajrang dikhayi nahi deta (we haven’t seen the same Bajrang after the Olympics). I was working on that, as a player loses crucial ground because of injury. The 2-3 months of training after recovering from leg injuries has helped me improve. I know how attacking I played or how safe I played and will work on whatever deficiencies are left in my game.

Was there pressure?
There was no pressure. I just wanted to emulate my training in the competition. I have now played a lot of tournaments. I don’t take pressure that these are big Games or a championship. I just focus on giving my best.
How is this CWG gold different from the one you won in 2018 in the Gold Coast?
In 2018, when I won gold, I didn’t have an Olympic medal. This (in Birmingham) was new. I won an Olympic medal (in Tokyo), then fought through injury. So both have their own importance. And keeping the World Championships in mind, we knew we had to perform well.

What would you say to those who feel that competition is relatively easy at CWG?
If somebody says that the fights were easy, I won’t agree with that. In wrestling, we have to fight with the opponent’s power. Nobody comes to lose, but only to win, whatever medal it may be. We don’t know about the opponent beforehand, how he will fight or how well prepared he is. All that is decided on that mat.

What next from here?
In September there is the World Championships, then there is the Paris Olympics in 2024. But I am focused on the World Championships at the moment, though the big target is the Olympics. Like you need to take the stairs to go to the terrace, we have to take one tournament at a time. And what I couldn’t do in Tokyo (winning gold), I want to do in Paris.

Are you personally happy with your performance?
There are a lot of differences from earlier. I played attacking, played my natural wrestling style and succeeded. So I will try to enter the World Championships with the same form and win a medal there as well.

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