New Delhi, Jan 21 (CNMSPORTS): Having slowly emerged from shadow of star wrestlers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt, two-time World Championships medallist Bajarang Punia has now set his sights on the biggest prize in the world of sports and is confident on finishing on the podium at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Currently the top ranked wrestler in the world in the 65 kilogram weight category, the 24-year-old from Jhajjar (Haryana), has had a terrific season last year, winning five international medals which included gold medals at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Jakarta Asian Games and a silver in the World Championships.
Interestingly in Budapest, Bajrang became the only Indian grappler to be seeded in a World Championship.
During a chat on the side lines of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) Season 4, Bajrang expressed his desire to win an Olympics medal for the country and emulate his idol Yogeshwar Dutt.
"Given my performance in the last season and my current form and training, I can confidently say that my preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Games are very much on the right track," Bajrang told IANS.
He also said that currently his immediate focus is on the world championships which is also an Olympic qualifying event.
"The 2019 World Championship is the biggest and the most challenging event before the Tokyo Games. It is also an Olympic qualifier, so the whole focus at this moment is on the World event which is scheduled to be held in Kazakhastan," the wrestler who is representing defending champions NCR Punjab Royals in the PWL this season, said.
"The Asian Championships is the next big even this year, apart from these two, there are few other friendly and practice events which my coaches have drawn for me," he added.
He has expressed his appreciation for the PWL on several occasions as it has given him and other Indian wrestlers immense benefit in terms of training, learning and competing against world champions and Olympic medallists.
"The PWL has given all Indian wrestlers great exposure and that too at home. Getting to play world and Olympic champions at our own backyard in an event like this is a great feeling. Not many wrestlers worldwide can boast of such an experience," Bajrang said.
The Haryana grappler who has been highly impressed with young Indian wrestlers Pinki and Ravi Kumar after their upset wins over established names, said he has leant a lot by committing mistakes against top international stars in the PWL.
"We are training with these champion wrestlers, we all are learning a lot from these bouts, from the mistakes that we are committing here, and I am sure when we face these wrestlers on the world stage, we will be well prepared," Bajrang said.
"There are quite a few players who have shown promise this season but I am really impressed with Pinki and Ravi. Pinki rallied to beat the 2017 world champion Vanesa and Ravi got the better of the seasoned Sandeep Tomar with a very dominating performance. These are good signs for Indian wrestling and many thanks to PWL I should say," the Asian Games gold medallist added.