In a country that loves sports and wholeheartedly celebrates the success of its players, the Asian Games are always a chance to create more rags to riches stories. We have seen many athletes rise from the ground to reach their career heights and make a mark in their respective sports.
Today we talk about World No. 1 wrestler Bajrang Punia who on Thursday, bagged his second title in two weeks as he defeated Viktor Rassadin in the finals of men’s 65kg freestyle in the Ali Aliyev wrestling tournament in Kaspiisk, Russia. Last week at the Asian Championships in Xi’an, China, he had won a gold medal.
The 25-year-old has had an inspiring journey of his own and here we take a look at his life story from how he started, to his idol and some of his achievements that made him World No. 1.
Born in Haryana, which is regarded as the cradle of Indian wrestling, to Balwaan Punia, who was himself a wrestler, Bajrang had a good starting point for his career at his home itself.
However, his father couldn’t achieve any major success himself, due to financial constraints. But, he decided that his son will not face the same problems. So he made sure that Bajrang started wrestling when young. Even at that time, the family’s financial condition was very poor. To save money, Balwaan Punia used to travel by cycle instead of rickshaws or bus. He spent the saved money on providing the proper diet for his son.
His family moved to Sonepat so he could train at the Sports Authority of India.
Idol – Yogeshwar Dutt
Punia has always been vocal about his respect for his hero and mentor Padma Shri Yogeshwar Dutt. Bajrang generally shied away from participating in 65 kg freestyle because Dutt participated in the same competition. However, as Dutt came closer to retirement, Bajrang had to be his successor.
Punia has had an amazing wrestling journey since the time he started. From bagging a bronze at 2013 Asian Wrestling Championships to silver at 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2014 Asian Games, his career graph has seen some great achievements. He earned the prestigious Arjuna Award in 2015.
At the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games, he won the gold medal in the men’s freestyle 65 kg category.
In 2019, he won gold at Asian Wrestling Championships in Xi’an, China and again gold at the Aliyev wrestling tournament.
The country’s greatest grappler’s name has now been recommended for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna.