Indian Olympic bronze medalist and star freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia has his eyes set on the 2023 season which will include the postponed 2022 World Wrestling Championships and Asian Games in China.
According to Bajrang Punia, the 2023 season will be important because the world wrestling championships to be held in Russia from September 16-24 will be an Olympic qualifying event.
“I have started my off-season training to mentally and physically prepare for the difficult 2023 season.”
“The main focus in the coming months will be to stay healthy and perform well at the 2023 World Wrestling Championships and the Asian Games in September.”
Bajrang Punia is the defending Asian Games champion in the men’s 65kg freestyle event. However, his first major competition of 2023 will be the Asian Championships in March. Since there is no national camp, the Olympic bronze medalist moved his training base to Delhi.
“I am training at Railways Wrestling Training Center in Delhi under my personal trainer Sujit Maan. At the moment there are no plans to go abroad and train.
Punia suffered a head injury while on his way to winning bronze in the men’s 65kg freestyle event at the 2022 World Wrestling Championships held in September in Serbia. He also had to overcome a knee injury while preparing for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics held last year in Japan.
“I have fully recovered from the head injury sustained in September during the World Wrestling Championships. There are no niggle issues.
To avoid burnout, the Haryana wrestler will participate in selected events to climax at the right time. Therefore, he has no plans to participate in the upcoming Grand Prix Wrestling which will be held in Uttarakhand on November 13.
However, depending on the calendar, it is possible that Punia will participate in the national wrestling championships.
“The national championships will be a good platform to assess fitness.”
Punia will also participate in the Asian Championships scheduled for March 2023.
The clash of dates may affect Bajrang Punia
The postponed 2022 World Wrestling Championships and Asian Games are both scheduled for September 2023. A date conflict is a worrying factor for Bajrang Punia coach Sujit Maan. He said there should have been a gap because both events are important.
“The Asian Games will start immediately after the World Championships, which is an Olympic qualifying event. There should have been a gap between the two important competitions in 2023 as the majority of the best Asian wrestlers will compete for the Olympics spot in the first qualifying event as well as the Asian Games.
While Bajrang Punia will be keen to stamp his authority at the World Wrestling Championships, he will certainly be looking forward to retaining his title at the Asian Games.
However, the change in the Paris 2024 Olympic Games qualification system by United World Wrestling, the world’s governing body for wrestling, is another challenge that wrestlers will face. This time, the world championships will offer five Olympic qualification places in each of the weight categories instead of six.
“Four World Championship medalists will qualify automatically. The winner of fifth and sixth place will take the final spot for the Paris Olympics quota spots in September,” Maan said. “Less Olympic quota means the competition will be more difficult.”