Elite Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia on Saturday said he would compete in both, the postponed Asian Games and the World Championships next year if there is a gap of at least one month between the two competitions.
The 2022 Asian Games were postponed due to rising COVID-19 cases in China and the organizers are yet to announce new dates for the prestigious Continental event. The World Championship, set to be held in Russia in September 2023, will be an Olympic qualifying event.
”2023 is an important year. The focus is on qualifying for the Paris Games through the World Championships. We don’t know as yet what is going to be the gap between Asian Games and the Worlds. ”But if we have one or one-and-a-half-month cushion between the two, I would compete in both,” Bajrang said during a virtual interaction, facilitated by SAI.
The 28-year-old Bajrang, who won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics Games, finds no merit in harping and fretting over past mistakes. Instead, he would learn from them and move forward with better goals — an Olympic gold at the 2024 Paris Games. ”I was injured and was in rehab for about 8 months after Olympics. The Olympics is the most important event for any athlete. That was a setback but still, I won a bronze. 65 is the toughest category in the world.
”I have not changed a bit after winning an Olympic medal. The endeavor would be to do better in 2024. I have been training again. In the last four Olympics, India has got medals through wrestling. Bronze and silver are there but not gold. That’s the target for Paris Games.
”We have to forget mistakes, learn from them, and move forward. Victory and defeats are part of an athlete’s life, we have to accept both,” he said.
Bajrang is set to leave for the USA on Sunday for a training-stint ahead of the Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
The multiple-time world medallist said he gets a better sparring partner when he trains outside.
”I will be training at Michigan University. Many top wrestlers train there. Like, I will be training with the world’s number one in 70kg (Ernazar Akmataliev, Kyrgyzstan). The 86kg Olympic medallist will also be there. That’s why I prefer to train there.” ”Also, we are saved from usual distractions when we train in India. No one disturbs us abroad.” He asserted that no wrestler, from any nation, tries to injure others deliberately during these training stints.
”We may be fierce competitors on the mat but off-mat we are all friends. There is no such fear in my mind that I will get injured, never thought like that. I have trained in Russia, Europe, the USA, and Asian nations but nothing like that has ever happened,” he assured.
The Commonwealth Games, considering the low competition level, will be a test event for Bajrang, who though does not want to take things lightly.
”Remember I had finished second there in 2014,” he said.