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When Bajrang Punia Rose Above Pain Barrier, 'For Me Winning Olympics Bronze Was Bigger', Says Injured Wrestler

Bajrang Punia will be India's flagbearer at the Tokyo 2020 closing ceremony on Sunday

When Bajrang Punia Rose Above Pain Barrier, 'For Me Winning Olympics Bronze Was Bigger', Says Injured Wrestler
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Bajrang Punia will be a proud man when he walks out with the Indian flag during the closing ceremony of Tokyo 2020 at the Olympic Stadium in Tokyo on Sunday. The 27-year-old wrestler won a bronze medal in his first Olympics but the Haryana wrestler confessed that he has a learnt a lot at the Summer Games. (MEDAL TALLY | GALLERY)

"For the first time, I knew what real pressure is all about ... not just the weight of a billion good wishes but how every competitor is doing everything to win an Olympic medal. There are a few things that I need to work on with my coach," said Bajrang in a media interaction on Sunday.

For India's top matmen, grit has always been their middle name. Bajrang showed that ahead of his 65 kg freestyle bronze medal match against Daulet Niyazbekov from Kazakhstan. He walked out with his knee guard and removed the tapes that treat pain.

"I told the doctor that I am not comfortable in them. 'Let me get injured again, I really don't care now. I want the bronze...' Fortunately, the doctor agreed. My legs get jammed in tapes and kneecaps. I was free to fight," said Bajrang Punia.

For Bajrang, it's been tough road to Tokyo 2020. A knee injury during a tournament in Russia barely weeks away from the Games came as a jolt.

"I could not do mat training for nearly 25 days. I was not able to run as well after the injury. Before a tournament like Olympics even missing one day's training is not good," Bajrang said.

Bajrang Punia thanks the embassy in Moscow to help him train and nurse his injuries in Russia. Going back to India during the second COVID wave was out of question for him.

"Glad that all the effort paid off. The Olympics were quite a challenge and I was clear in my mind that I will return with a medal come what may," he said.

Saying that he will continue to fight in the 65kg category, Bajrang said he will ready for the World Championships in Oslo, Norway from October 2-10. He will stick to the same weight class for Paris 2024.

Meanwhile, once back home, Bajrang will soak in all the celebration and of course, mum Om Pyari's 'Choorma'.

"Glad that all the effort paid off. The Olympics were quite a challenge and I was clear in my mind that I will return with a medal come what may," he said.

Bajrang dedicated his medal to India's COVID warriors.

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