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Olympics-Wrestling-India’s Punia wants no drama in early rounds at Tokyo

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) – India’s Bajrang Punia is determined to avoid come-from-behind wins in his early bouts which could leave him exhausted even before reaching the medal rounds at the Tokyo Olympics, the freestyle wrestler said.

The 27-year-old is the second seed in men’s 65kg category in Tokyo, the one on whose shoulders rest India’s hopes of winning the country’s first Olympic gold in wrestling.

“I want to come back with a medal. I am working on not giving points early,” Punia told Sunday’s Times of India newspaper.

“Coach (Emzarios Bentinidis) keeps on telling me that a come-from-behind victory requires a lot of effort and if I keep on doing that, I will be spent when I reach the medal rounds.”

World champion Russian Gadzhimurad is the top seed in a strong group which, according to Punia, contained 10-12 wrestlers who could beat each other “on their day”.

An Asian and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Punia’s leg defence is considered probably his only weakness, but the wrestler from Haryana was not too perturbed.

“Just focusing on leg defence is not the solution,” he said.

“When the opponent starts getting tired and fatigue sets in him, that’s when I pounce on and attack and accumulate points.

“My style is more on the lines of working hard for my win. I am not able to play the technical game like the other 65kg wrestlers do.

“My strong point is power and endurance. That helps me to come back (in a bout).”

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Kim Coghill)

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