For Bajrang Punia, the selection was stark: take away the protecting tape and threat surgical procedure or threat shedding an Olympic medal. He did what he did as a result of for Punia life is about what you do in these six minutes on the mat.
Having lost the semi-final, Punia opted to take the tape off within the Olympics bronze medal combat in opposition to Kazakhstan’s Daulet Niyazbekov. “I thought if I have to go for surgery, so be it but I could not let this opportunity go,” he mentioned.
“I have everything: gold at the Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and three medals at the world championships. I was preparing only to win gold (in Tokyo) but the injury happened. Doctors told me that if I remove the tape and fight, I might need surgery. People will say, ‘why take a chance, there is the 2024 Paris Olympics.’ But I was preparing for Tokyo, how could I come back without a medal?”
So, Punia fought without caring for the harm. “Who has seen 2024? For me the moment was in Tokyo. We work hard for three or four years only for the Olympics. I have beaten so many wrestlers to come this far and who knows how things will change in future.”
The Olympic bronze medallist was talking on the HT Leadership Summit on Saturday. Punia shared the stage with Paralympics medallists Avani Lekhara and Sumit Antil. Their dialog with tv journalist Shivani Gupta summed up the brand new age Indian athlete: one for whom participation will not be an important factor, successful is.
“Now, our athletes are not satisfied with just medals, they want to win gold medals, set world records. Barriers have been broken,” mentioned Punia.
Lekhara is proof of that. Shooting gave her life a function after being bedridden for six months so Lekhara went to Tokyo wanting all of it. “I wished to realize the whole lot in Tokyo—gold medals, world file, Paralympic file. I was strolling with my coach (Suma Shirur) earlier than my match and she or he instructed me, ‘’just give your best and don’t take so much pressure of winning and smashing all records,’” said the 20-year-old shooter who has been in a wheel-chair after a road accident.
In Tokyo, Lekhara was on fire in the 10m air rifle standing SH1 event. She won gold with a Paralympic record of 249.6, a score which equalled the world record. Enough to make her happy, right? Well, almost. “The last shot was 9.9. I was disappointed despite a gold and a world record score,” she said.
Sitting beside her was Antil, a serial world record breaker in his Paralympic javelin event. In Tokyo, Antil toyed with the field, breaking his record five times on his way to gold with a throw of 68.55m.
“When I started javelin, the first thing I asked my coach was, “what was the world record.” He was surprised and told me to not think that far. Gradually, I realised how difficult it was to improve on your throw and it takes a lot of hard work, training, strength and technique,” he said. Having been a wrestler before his life altering accident—he was hit by a tractor and had to have a leg amputated—helped, said Antil. “I had strength. The only thing I needed was technique.”
With a prosthetic leg, Antil said he started working out at home and “stumbled upon a javelin one day.” Using prosthesis means Antil finds it difficult to generate power from the run-up. Also, the prosthetic leg has to be changed regularly. Getting the body to adjust to a new one takes time and is painful. “I am using one from March and I am still not quite used to it. There are chances of injury,” he said.
Punia, a former world No. 1 in the 65kg, said Indians can win multiple Olympic medals but only if they are allowed “to play freely without any pressure.”
He may not like living on the edge but when it comes to his bouts, it is full of tense moments and glorious comebacks.
“Pata nahin kya hota hai, jab tak opponent kuch factors rating na kar le, wrestling shuru nahin kar pata (Don’t know what occurs. Till the purpose my opponents rating, I cannot start my wrestling,” said Punia.
“The coach says management the bout from begin however that does not occur. My sport is of stamina and to combat for six minutes. Till the final second something can occur in wrestling and I go by that coverage.”