Set for re­boot, Pu­nia hopes to go all out in added time

Hindustan Times (Jalandhar) - - HTBUSINESS - Avishek Roy avishek.roy@htlive.com

NEWDELHI: Had it not been for this pan­demic, Ba­jrang Pu­nia would have been in the fi­nal stages of his Tokyo Olympics prepa­ra­tion. “I was ready for the Olympics. I would have com­peted in the first week of Au­gust,” Pu­nia said with a tinge of re­gret in his voice. In­stead, Pu­nia has now placed him­self in 14-day quar­an­tine at the In­spire In­sti­tute of Sport–the JSW cen­tre in Vi­jayana­gar–get­ting ready to re­boot his prepa­ra­tion for the post­poned event.

What­ever time he is get­ting, Pu­nia is look­ing to utilise that to strengthen his skills on the mat. “You have to look at the pos­i­tive side. Now that we have more time in our hand, how we can use it to our ad­van­tage. Ev­ery ath­lete is fac­ing a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion. If I work with pa­tience to over­come my short­com­ings I will be bet­ter pre­pared for 2021,” said Pu­nia.

Dur­ing the lock­down at his flat in Sonepat, Pu­nia was train­ing with Asian Cham­pi­onships sil­ver medal­list (74kg) Ji­ten­der Ku­mar.

He ar­ranged a mat and some gym equip­ment too. “We used to be at home and train, so there was no risk in­volved. We de­cided to come to IIS cen­tre once the lock­down eased and do­mes­tic flights started. We are tak­ing all pre­cau­tions here and will be in quar­an­tine till June 30. Af­ter that we will re­sume train­ing.”

Pu­nia’s train­ing will be mon­i­tored by 2004 Olympic Cham­pion from Cuba, Yan­dro Quin­tana, with reg­u­lar coach Shako Ben­tini­dis pro­vid­ing backup in plan­ning his sched­ule and rou­tine. “They will plan my sched­ule. Shako has been in reg­u­lar touch and giv­ing me sched­ules. He is ready to join me once things nor­malise,” he said.

“It is dif­fi­cult to train with on­line in­struc­tions. The pres­ence of a coach in the mat makes a lot of dif­fer­ence in point­ing out mis­takes. But noth­ing much can be done right now. There is a for­eign coach (Quin­tana) who will mon­i­tor my train­ing. It is a good fa­cil­ity here and no­body is al­lowed in­side, so it is safe. There is no com­pe­ti­tion right now so I am go­ing to take it as off-sea­son train­ing,” he said.

Go­ing by his per­for­mance in his last com­pe­ti­tion–Asian Cham­pi­onships here in Delhi in Fe­bru­ary, Pu­nia will need to cover some ground. He was out­played by Ja­panese Takuto Otoguro, whose speed and coun­ter­at­tack in­flicted a crush­ing 10-2 de­feat. Pu­nia had also lost to him in the world cham­pi­onships fi­nal in 2018. The 65kg cat­e­gory is one of the tough­est with sev­eral top con­tenders, Pu­nia be­ing one of them. The In­dian had also lost a close semi-fi­nal in the 2019 world cham­pi­onships against Kazakh wrestler Daulet Niyazbekov. Pu­nia’s pen­chant to go for the of­fen­sive has of­ten been deemed a draw­back as well.

Pu­nia, how­ever, is bent on count­ing it as his strength. “That is my style. I can­not change it now. It is my strength. You can change your style when you are a ju­nior, not now. If I change it now I will be at a dis­ad­van­tage. So I have to work on my weaker points and not think of chang­ing my style of wrestling.”

“Like, if I have to at­tack, I also have to think of my safety. I am work­ing on that as­pect. I am work­ing on my speed and power so that my at­tacks are strong and when I come on the mat I am able to last for full six min­utes. I have an­a­lysed my bouts af­ter the Asian Cham­pi­onships and dis­cussed with my coach on how to pre­pare,” he said.

Ba­jrang Pu­nia

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