Winning a gold medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games here was not the real goal for renowned Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia. Bajrang wanted to win on his own terms in Birmingham with an impressive and aggressive style of play. The 28-year-old Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist from Jhajjar, Haryana, clinched her second Commonwealth Games gold medal in men’s 65kg with an aggressive performance by defeating Lachlan McNeil of Canada in the final.
In an interview with IANS, India’s star wrestler said that he aims to become the first Indian wrestler to win an Olympic gold medal in Paris in 2024.
Here are some excerpts from their conversation:
Q: How happy are you after winning your second gold medal at the Commonwealth Games?
A: I am very happy and very proud because I have made some changes after the 2020 Olympics. It’s great to see that all the changes I’ve made have been beneficial. It is great for India to win a gold medal.
Q: It’s one thing to win a fight, it’s a whole other thing to win it brilliantly and impose your style. How important was this factor to you in your outings at the Commonwealth Games?
Answer: Yes, it is necessary to win a medal, but it is necessary to win a medal. It is also very important to force the opponent to play according to his style and present himself. If I can do that then I consider it a better performance. If I can wind up on style, that’s even better. I am happy to be able to win the way I wanted to, so I am happy with my overall performance. I just hope to continue in this order.
Q: How satisfied are you that you were able to win the match the way you wanted to?
Answer: I am very satisfied that I was able to win the match by playing the way I wanted to play. I was aggressive but my defense was also strong. Since the Tokyo Olympics, my performance has been up and down because of the injuries I have suffered during the Games. I’ve managed to turn things around and train well, and I’m glad I’ve been able to apply that to tournaments. Then this is the first time I managed to play the way I wanted. So I am very happy.
Q: You said a few years ago that you want to bring back Bajrang Punia in 2017. How do you think you succeeded in that quest?
Answer: I think I am about 70 to 80 percent there. Now my hard work is 10-20 percent left, from where we are again kerken to kijanje. I look forward to continuing to work hard on this aspect of the game and look forward to completing it during the upcoming World Championships.
Q: What are your plans for the World Championships and what comes?
A: Apart from World Championships, I want to do well in Asian Games, National Championships and then focus on Paris 2024 Olympics. This is my goal for next year. I want to qualify for the Olympics early and then use the gap of one year to prepare for the Olympics to the best of my ability.
Question: Sushil Kumar is the only wrestler who has won two medals in the Olympics.
Answer: I will try my best to add gold medals to the silver and bronze medals won by my fellow wrestlers for India. I will try my best to win the gold medal in Paris.
I am working really hard to make sure that the dream he left unfulfilled in the last Olympics (he bronze medal) is going to be fulfilled in Paris mainly because of my injury. Every athlete aspires to win gold at the Olympic Games and fulfill the ambition that remains unfulfilled in Tokyo. I am trying my best in my training regime to reach my goal.
Q: How will you show your journey now?
Answer: I have traveled a long way since I was little and it is not just my journey, I have a complete support system supporting me including support staff, physio, who helped me to stand here and talk to you Of. It is important that the people who work with me behind the scenes, who are not in front of the cameras, know that I appreciate their efforts. This is a big platform. I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude.