The quotes in this article are from a conversation with Bajrang Punia in 2020.
Bajrang Punia has been one of the most successful wrestlers in this Olympic cycle. He has won two world championship medals and an Asian Games title over the last four years.
The Indian wrestler is one of the favorites to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics in 65kg men’s freestyle. But before he made a name for himself on the mat, Bajrang Punia had become a reckoning force in mud wrestling in India.
One of Bajrang Punia’s pictures from his ‘dangal’ (mud wrestling) days has gone viral on social media. The picture shows the Indian wrestler’s hand raised by the referee, indicating he won the bout. Interestingly, just like every picture, this too has a story behind it.
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The story behind Bajrang Punia’s most memorable ‘dangal bout’
The particular ‘dangal’ in question was held in 2014 in Khera village in Sonepat district, Haryana. Bajrang Punia recalled the day and said it was one of his most memorable bouts where he pinned the opponent in six minutes to win Rs 21,000 prize money.
“The dangal was held near Khera village in Sonepat. Unlike mat wrestling, in dangal you have to pin your opponent to win. I pinned my competitor in six minutes to win the Rs 21,000 dangal,” said Bajrang Punia.
Bajrang Punia was just 20 years old then but had already become a worlds medalist. He began wrestling at the age of seven. The Haryana-born wrestler was encouraged by his father to take up the sport.
In 2015, his father Balvan Singh Punia shifted to Sonepat so that Bajrang could concentrate solely on training.
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Four years after that famous dangal in Khera village, he won the 2018 Asian Games and Commonwealth Games title.
Bajrang Punia, now 27, is hoping to surpass Sushil Kumar’s legacy at the Tokyo Olympics. He will enter the Games as the second seed in his division.
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