Moments after clinching gold in the 65kg category, wrestler Bajrang Punia is busy packing his bag in his room at the Games Village. When his room-mate Somveer enquires where he’s headed to, Bajrang informs he’s looking to catch his first flight back home so that he could resume training.
The 24-year-old was fairly content at his exploits in Australia. But given the rather tepid competition he had on offer, he believes he is better off returning to the more gruelling and regimented training at his akhada in Sonepat.
“I have no work here. I won gold in bouts which were easier than my practice. There is little competition at Commonwealth Games but it’s still a big deal for me. A medal here is good but now there is nothing left. The movement in all my bouts is nothing compared to what I do in my training. It’s done,” Bajrang explains after his win.
On Friday, Bajrang’s relatively easy win gave India its 17th gold medal at the Games. Bajrang, on his part, is happy to have upgraded from his silver medal he had won four years ago in Glasgow. “I enjoyed my time here. But the quality of wrestling here is something I did not like,” he admits.
Bajrang’s route to the top of the podium has been a walk in the park to say the least. His scorelines in all the four bouts were identical: 10-0. He began by overpowering New Zealand’s Brahm Richards, and then followed it up by quelling Nigeria’s Amas Daniel and Canada’s Vincent de Marinis in the semis. In the summit clash too, his opponent, Welshman Kane Charig met with a similar fate. He won everything by technical superiority and became India’s third wrestler to win gold, just a day after Rahul Aware and Sushil Kumar. Even though these wins were etched out without breaking a sweat, Bajrang reckons there is plenty of room for improvement.
No repeating mistakes
“I remember the mistakes I had made in Glasgow and was concious of not repeating them here. Last time, I had defeated the Nigerian wrestler (Amas Daniel) 5-3 in Glasgow. Here, I beat him 10-0… so there is an improvement,” he says. But the 2013 World Championship bronze medallist knows that he still has some way to go before he can claim to be known as a world beater. Among other things, not taking down opponents with his signature move is an area, which he is looking to improve.
“I get the takedown with ease. I have stamina and the power but after the takedown, I am trying to finish the bout. The knee move (Irani) is not as effective and sometimes the referee calls it a foul for the bending of the opponent’s knee. I do the gut wrench but a stronger opponent may not let me do that. So, I am working on more moves to finish the bouts,” he adds.
With his second CWG medal in his kitty, Bajrang has one last thing on his mind before he leaves Australia – give pep talk to his room-mate Somveer who has a bout lined up on Saturday in the 86kg category. Following his Gold Coast high, Bajrang has a slew of competitions lined up for which he and his coach are chalking out a road map ahead.
“There is no stopping till the World Championships in October. My coach Shako and I are planning to visit Russia in a couple of weeks. I will participate in a few tournaments including the Asian Games. Apart from that, there are three to four international tournaments as well,” he concludes. It’s little wonder that the Haryana lad is frantically looking for the next flight back to India.