Bajrang Punia has now won almost every tournament in his weight category. This season, the freestyle wrestler has four gold medals to his name – including that of the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and the most prestigious Indonesia Asian Games. But all this, combined, is not an enough reason for him to celebrate.
He puts his WhatsApp profile picture of a yellow medal which has ‘Tokyo 2020’ inscribed on it. The picture says it all. That medal is what Bajrang wishes to celebrate. “That Olympic gold medal has been on my profile picture for more than a year and half now,” Bajrang, fresh from the Asian Games victory, tells The Sunday Guardian.
It is not only his dream to win the most illustrious medal in sports but also that of his hero and mentor Yogeshwar Dutt, who had won a bronze in 2012 London Olympics but failed to convert it into gold in the Rio edition of the Games. So, now through Bajrang, he wishes to change the colour of his Olympic medal.
“When Yogi Bhai (as he addresses Dutt) returned from the 2016 Olympics, he had told me that he wants a gold medal from me in the 2020 Olympics. Since then, I have set that picture and I will not change it before Tokyo Olympics,” says Bajrang, adding, “Whenever I see it, it reminds me of my target. It is my wish to bring home that medal.”
The Haryana wrestler has recently delivered on one of his promises to his ‘guru’ by returning home from the Asian Games with a gold medal around his neck. “Yogi Bhai had told me I have to win the gold medal and repeat his 2014 Asian Games feat. And I had also promised him the same. So he is very happy that I kept my words.”
Bajrang has heard the national anthem play on the podium for innumerable times now, though he still finds it hard to express that feeling of winning a gold medal for his country. The emotions are unfathomable, he says.
“When we win and carry the Indian flag in our hands, the feeling is ineffable. It cannot be expressed in words. It just feels that with our win, we have fulfilled the work the people of this nation have given to us. For a player, it is a moment of immense proud,” he says with a sense of pride.
Bajrang will be next prepping up for the World Wrestling Championships beginning in October. “I will try to replicate my Asian Games performance in the World Championships as well,” he says exuding confidence.