Mumbai: “Har pahalavaan akhaade main yeh soch ke utarata hain kee woh desh ke liye kuchh karega, par desh hee pahalavaan ke lie kuchh na kare toh bechaara pahalavaan kya karega.” (Every wrestler steps into the ring thinking of doing something for the country, but he becomes helpless when the country fails him) – Dangal
The dialogue from the movie Dangal, which is based on the life of former wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat accurately resonates the pre-2008 wrestling scenario in India. Things changed for better after the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where Sushil Kumar clinched the bronze medal in the 66 kg freestyle category.
In the last eight years, the game has seen everything – glamour, money and media coverage. So much so that, on December 16, Bajrang Punia, the 22-year-old wrestler from the small town of Jhajjar in Haryana hogged the headlines after he became India’s most expensive buy in the auction of Pro Wrestling League season 2.
Punia, the 2016 Commonwealth Wrestling Championship gold medallist was acquired by Delhi Sultans for Rs 38. lakhs.
India endured a disappointing Rio Olympics, more so in wrestling, where it had won medals in the previous two editions. Sakshi Malik saved Indian wrestling’s blushes by winning bronze.
The 2020 Tokyo Olympics is still far but preparations must begin from now. Bajrang, who had also won silver in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2014, is one of India’s best prospects.
Talking exclusively to Deccan Chronicle, Bajrang, who has been training under Yogeshwar Dutt, said he dreams of winning an Olympics medal like his mentor.
“It’s my dream to win an Olympic medal just like Sushil and Yogeshwar,” said the wrestler. “It’s not just my dream, its Yogeshwar’s dream as well. I won bronze in 2013 in both Asian Wrestling Championships and World Wrestling Championships. I am solely focused on my training, so that I can bring more laurels to my country as the people of India have given me a lot of love, blessings and respect.”
Over the years, wrestling has become a marquee sport in India, and the grappler credits the duo of Sushil and Yogeshwar for its promotion.
“We can never forget the contributions of Sushil and Yogeshwar towards wrestling, the duo revived wrestling in India, otherwise it was a dead sport,” said Bajrang acknowledging the impact of the legends.
The Haryana grappler might be the most expensive Indian in PWL 2, but Bajrang doesn’t want that fact to get into his head.
“It feels very good to see that wrestling is getting a lot of attention in India. I am really glad that they (Delhi Sultans) have invested so much in me. My aim is to repay them with my performance; I can’t afford to get complacent just because I am the most expensive Indian. I will try to give my best,” said the confident wrestler.
On the impact of the wrestling league, Bajrand said, “PWL is a great platform for Indian wrestlers to rub shoulders with the best in the business. Wrestling with best grapplers from the world allows us to improve our technique. Such an experience is very vital if you are planning to win something big,” signed off Bajrang....