Bajrang Punia is a man of many firsts.
He is the first Indian wrestler to be ranked world No. 1 in any category and the first Indian to win three World Championship medals.
Bajrang Punia also added to his burgeoning reputation with a bronze medal in his maiden Olympics at Tokyo 2020, battling through a knee injury to fulfill his dream.
Growing up in humble surroundings in Jhajjar, Haryana, Bajrang Punia did not have the money to take up sports like cricket or badminton that needed expensive equipment. Kids preferred free-hand sports like kabaddi and wrestling and the ‘akhada’ (wrestling area) was a popular destination in his town.
Moreover, his father Balwan Singh was a wrestler himself and a young Bajrang would often escape school to watch the beefy wrestlers in action. “I never realised when it became a part of me,” Bajrang Punia said later.
Bajrang Punia started training at the local akhada at the age of 14 and was soon introduced to fellow Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, who has been Punia’s mentor ever since and a regular sparring partner.
“It doesn’t matter if no one is supporting you. If you refuse to be defeated in your mind, nothing can defeat you.”
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