CHENNAI: Wrestler Bajrang Punia, one of India’s biggest medal prospects at the Tokyo Olympics, is expected to get back on the mat this week and start training after serving time out due to a knee injury he suffered more than two weeks ago.
Currently in Russia, the 27-year-old wrestler, however, is expected to take a few more days before resuming full-fledged training. Bajrang had injured his right knee during a semifinal bout against Russian grappler Abdulmazhid Kudiev at the Ali Aliev Memorial on June 25. He had forfeited the bout as he was struggling to stand and later limped off the mat.
"He is recovering well and expected to resume training this week. For the first few days, he will take it easy and then increase the workload gradually depending upon the situation," said a source closely monitoring Bajrang’s progress.
The 65kg wrestler had skipped the Poland Open and preferred to train in Russia’s Vladikavkaz. Bajrang made the decision saying he desperately needed mat training with quality sparring partners ahead of the Games. Unfortunately, the injury forced him to stay out of action for more than a fortnight ahead of the biggest sporting event.
While the Olympics opens on July 23, the wrestling competitions will be held from August 1 to 7. Bajrang was also joined by Tokyo-bound Indian wrestlers Ravi Dahiya (57kg) and Deepak Punia (86kg) in Russia. The trio along with their support staff is expected to leave for Tokyo either on July 26 or 27, which practically means Bajrang now has a little more than a fortnight to get back to his groove.
"His physiotherapist is taking good care of him. He exercises with him and trains individually on the mat without sparring partners. We are hopeful he will soon start sparring with partners to be in good shape for the Games. We don’t want to rush him on the mat unless he recovers fully. Anyways, we are confident he will be ready for the Games," said the source.
As many as seven wrestlers (three men and four women) will represent the country in the Olympics with Bajrang along with Vinesh Phogat (53kg) being the best bet for India in the event.