Watching Bajrang Punia within the finals could be a nervy affair. With icy nerves and timeless perception in his personal skills, Punia likes to unveil his massive strikes solely within the dying phases of a struggle.
On Sunday, within the last of the Matteo Pellicone Rating Sequence in Rome, Punia’s first massive occasion in additional than a 12 months, it was no totally different. Punia grabbed the gold medal in his inimitable type—a come-from-behind counter with 30 seconds left on the clock noticed him degree the scores 2-2 in opposition to Tomor-Ochiryn Tulga of Mongolia. Then he survived Tulga’s final cost to return out of the tense last a winner on standards. Via the final minute or so, when Punia was desperately looking for a gap in opposition to Tulga and equalise, his frustration was palpable. He would throw a look on the scoreboard, then the judges, and gesture at his coach Shako Bentinidis when his assaults didn’t lead to factors. That’s typical of Punia. He has had many such tense moments on the mat, typically upturning massive deficits. On events his escape acts haven’t labored, notably throughout the world championships in 2018 and 2019, when he returned with silver and bronze medals respectively.
That stated, Punia, who was one of many strongest medal contenders for the unique Tokyo Olympics in 2020, confirmed on Sunday that he retains that tag for the brand new, deferred Tokyo Video games this 12 months. However he is not going to be alone in what’s considered the hardest freestyle class, 65kg. World champion Gadzhimurad Rashidov, 2018 world champion Takuto Otoguro, who has been Punia’s nemesis in massive meets, Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov, who beat Punia within the 2019 worlds, and Tulga, who has posed a problem for the Indian within the final two world championships, to call just a few, have all booked their participation for Tokyo.
His fantastic run in Rome has taken him to the highest of world rankings once more, however Punia can not relaxation straightforward. Punia desires to compete in opposition to all of them earlier than going to Tokyo.
“It was an excellent match. I’m wrestling after a 12 months off and he’s additionally an Olympic certified wrestler so it was a troublesome bout,” Punia informed United World Wrestling. “Earlier than the Olympics, I wish to wrestle each Tokyo certified wrestler,” he stated.
The Rating Sequence will assist Punia and his private coach Bentinidis assess their Tokyo preparations. On the occasion on Sunday, Punia started with a 7-0 win over Selim Kozan of Turkey however was troubled by Joseph Christopher McKeena of USA within the semi-final, finally successful 6-3. The Indian has been coaching at Cliff Kean Wrestling Membership in Michigan with Bentinidis since December, instantly after getting married to Sangeeta Phogat. One of many causes for his lengthy stint within the US isn’t having high quality coaching companions in India. Apart from enhancing his defence and bringing selection to his attacking recreation, Punia has additionally been engaged on rising his focus throughout bouts. Punia final week exited from all his social media accounts to deal with the Olympics.
The opposite contender
Like Punia, Vinesh Phogat too climbed atop the 53kg world rankings after her gold medal run in Rome. It was her second competitors in two weeks, having warmed up with a gold medal in Kiev. Vinesh cruised via her bouts and sealed it with a 4-0 win over former world bronze medalist Diana Weicker of Canada. Phogat gained her earlier two bouts by way of fall.
Nonetheless, Phogat, recognized to set excessive requirements for herself, was not glad along with her efficiency within the last. She scored after being warned for passivity after which elevated her result in 4-0 with one other takedown within the first interval. She then thwarted Weicker’s assaults and defended effectively within the second interval.
“I’m not glad with this efficiency in any respect. I gained however I wish to assault extra,” Phogat stated. “I need my rating to be greater than 4-0. Whereas my thoughts is aware of that, however my physique isn’t permitting me to do it,” she was quoted as saying in UWW.
Phogat, who contracted Covid-19 in August, most popular to coach at her dwelling in Sonepat final 12 months. It was solely in January that she ventured out along with her private coach Woller Akos of Hungary for coaching. She skilled on the Vasas Sports activities Membership in Budapest, Hungary after which on the Olympic Coaching Centre in Szczryk in Poland.
The Asian Championships in April in Kazakhstan will probably be one other good check for each Punia and Phogat.