JAKARTA: Indian wrestling’s new star Bajrang Punia set his eyes on a 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medal after his triumphant Asian Games campaign here.
The 24-year-old Bajrang notched up a “revenge win” against Japan’s Takatani Daichi in the gold medal bout of men’s 65 kg category.
Bajrang raced to a 6-0 lead in the final but the Japanese, to whom he had lost in the Asian Championship, made a spirited comeback with some solid attack and defence.
However, Bajrang prevailed after a tight battle to claim gold and said it was his biggest achievement so far.
“This is my biggest gold medal, if you win here then you are a contender at the Tokyo Olympics. I have an eye at Tokyo Games and preparing for that. I will try to produce same performance at the World Championship also,” Bajrang said after his win.
“There are very few gold for Indian wrestlers in Asiad. So it is a big achievement for me. Only Yogeshwar and Rajinder Singh have won two gold medals in a year (CWG and Asiad), I am only the third to do it, so naturally I am feeling proud of myself.”
Before Bajrang, only Kartar Singh (1978, 1986), Satpal Singh (1982), Rajinder Singh (1978), Changdi Ram (1970), Maruti Mane (1962) and Yogeshwar Dutt (2014) have won gold at Asiad.
“Yogi bhai (Yogeshwar) told me, ‘I did it in 2014, you have to do it in 2018’. When he won, it was huge gap in his and the previous Asiad medal. I wanted to continue with the medal trend,” he added.
Bajrang gave credit to his coach Shako Bentinidis for bringing about a wholesome change in his wrestling style.
“There is lot of change in my wrestling in the last five months. I have won for four gold after I started training with new coach. Every aspect of my game has changed, power, technique, speed,” he said.
Asked if he has become more aggressive, Bajrang said, “When people start expecting that Bajrang will win medal, I will have to deliver.”
Bajrang said he was unperturbed when the Japanese mounted a fight back.
“If I start thinking that I am losing, then definitely I will lose the bout. So I never do that. I don’t feel any pressure. I just work hard and give my 100 per cent.”
Bajrang used to celebrate his wins in style but now that has gone missing.
Asked if it was a deliberate move due to criticism from some people, he said, “People will keep talking about some or other things. I don’t bother who is saying what. I am the same but the thought process has changed after winning medals. I will not stop enjoying just because others don’t like it.”
Bajrang said he won’t have much time for celebration.
“I will start preparing for the World Championship after going back.”