After his retirement, 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt has been busy in either training more than 200 young wrestlers at his academy near Gohana in Haryana or mentoring team-mate and current world number one wrestler Bajrang Punia. With Punia winning the silver medal in World Championships in Hungary in October this year and becoming first Indian wrestler to win medals in two world championships, Punia is a contender for the gold medal in 2020 Olympics. And Dutt believes that Punia can bring India’s first gold medal in wrestling in Olympics.
“Bajrang Punia first came to train with me in 2008 at the Chatarsal Stadium in Delhi. The way he has emerged as India’s and now world’s top ranked wrestler in his category speaks of his talent. After my retirement, all my focus has been on Bajrang’s training and he is one of the contenders for the gold medal in 2020 Tokyo Olympics. The main challenge will come from wrestlers from Russsia, Iran, Japan and USA in his weight category. Bajrang’s strength has been his endurance and mental strength and that has made him world number one. Even though he lost in the final in world championships, the silver medal has surely boosted his confidence. He needs to work upon his defense more in order to win the gold in 2020 Olympics and we have been spending time on this aspect of his game,” said Dutt, who was in Panchkula on Sunday.
While Punia claimed the silver medal in Hungary, female wrestler Pooja Dhanda of Haryana too won the bronze medal in the women’s freestyle 57 kg category. Earlier this week, the Wrestling Federation of India announced a contract list for 150 wrestlers with wrestlers divided in nine categories and to be given money on a quarterly basis by the WFI. Punia, Dhanda and Vinesh Phogat are the only wrestlers in category A to get Rs 30 lakh while two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar and 2016 Rio Olympics medallist Sakshi Malik have been included in category B and will get Rs 20 lakh. Junior nationals gold medallist will be in Category F and will get Rs 1.2 lakh annually apart from cadet nationals gold medallist recieving Rs 60,000 annually Dutt sees this a s a promising move.
“Pooja Dhanda’s bronze medal is also a big achievement for female wrestling in India. Wrestlers like Rahul Aware, Sandeep Tomar and Parveen Rana have also done well and it’s good for Indian wrestling. The decision of WFI awarding contracts to wrestlers is a step in right direction. Apart from top wrestlers, cadet and junior wrestlers will also get cash annually and it will help them. I believe that sub-junior and junior wrestlers need the maximum support and this move will benefit Indian wrestling,” added Dutt.
While Dutt has been running his wrestling academy on leased land, the 36-year-old will also open a new academy on a 5.5 acre plot near Gohana. “When I started wrestling, I would train in mud. Wrestling in mud has its own advantages but young wrestlers face problem when they compete on mat in initial part of their career. It was a challenge for me to adjust my game when I competed on mat. But things have changed now. More and more young wrestlers are joining the sport and the focus has been on getting the right techniques initially. At our academy near Gohana in Haryana, more than 200 youngsters train and reside. The youngest of the trainees is eight-year-old and there are wrestlers from states like Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan too. Training in mud as well as mat means that they can adapt their game and also pick up the skills required for mud wrestling, which also help their moves on the mat. We are also opening another academy on 5.5 acres of own land with partnership with JSW Group and such facilities will help the youngsters,” Dutt said.