Wrestler Punia gets into Olympic mood as he spars, sweats

Freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia has entered the final phase of preparation for the Tokyo Olympic Games, sparring and sweating with the top Russian athletes here.

‘I have started my training in Russia with David Baev, the 2019 world champion in 70kg. There are good sparring partners in Vladikavkaz,’ the 27-year-old wrestler said on his twitter handle.

Punia who has qualified in the men’s 65kg freestyle event reached here this month and will continue to train here for nearly five weeks before directly flying out to Japan. His personal coach Shako Bentinidis from Georgia is also with him.

Since Punia’s main sparring partner, Jitender Kumar, is injured, last month he planned to invite about five wrestlers from different countries to practice in India, but it didn’t materialise due to Covid pandemic.

Instead of competing in the Poland Ranking Series held in Warsaw from June 8 to 13, the Haryana wrestler opted to train and spar with top Russian wrestlers to prepare for the Olympics.

‘Good sparring partners play an important role in polishing skills. Vladikavkaz has good facilities for wresters. I had trained in Russia before the Asian Wrestling Championships too,’ Punia had said during an online media interaction last month.