NEW DELHI: All his life, he has been a sparring partner of Yogeshwar Dutt. Equally talented, there’s hardly anything to separate him from the London Olympics bronze medallist. Except, his temperament and of course, experience. Bajrang Punia may not be a household name, but among wrestling buffs he is still famous. Whenever Dutt wins a medal, he never forgets to tell the world how much Bajrang helped.
And on a hot summer evening on Thursday, Dutt was there to watch his ward wrestle for gold and in search of some fame. For the veteran, Bajrang is more than a sparring partner, he is his ‘brother’. The former felt his protege’s defensive approach, which cost him a medal at the World Championship, would rear its ugly head again. The key was not to provide his opponent an opportunity to attack, felt the 34-year-old. But Bajrang made sure such fear did not come true, beating Lee Seung-chul of Korea in the 65kg freestyle final to bag India’s first gold medal at the meet. Some good strategising with his coach and Dutt ensured the 23-year-old won 6-2.
The yellow metal eluded the hosts till the penultimate day. Even stars Sakshi Malik and Vinesh Phogat settled for silver, and this was raising eyebrows. Yogeshwar felt gold was best. “Gold is gold. Silver and bronze are achievements too. People will say, ‘He’s an Asian bronze or silver winner’. But winning gold will make them say ‘He’s an Asian champion’. Becoming a winner is what really matters,” he opined.
Bajrang was ecstatic. “Becoming champion is big thing. I’ve won bronze and silver before. That’s why I’m happy today. This is important for my future. I hope I can perform better at the World Championship. It shows that I’ve put in lots of effort. Back then, (World Cup), I was injured,” he stated.
It was also a good day for Sarita as she bagged a silver medal in the women’s 58kg category.