In a video interview, India’s freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia told how he risked breaking his leg to clinch his Olympics medal. “Medal zaroori hai”, said Bajrang in the interview, “Pair toot jayega, surgery karwa lenge (if my leg breaks, I’ll get a surgery done),” added Punia when he was giving an account of a bout where his leg was injured and yet he chose to step in the wrestling ring.
On his able and strong shoulders, freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia carried the expectations of 1.3 billion Indians. The expectations of pinning down every opponent who comes for him, the expectations of winning every bout he gets, and the expectations of clinching a shiny gold medal.
The Backstory Behind Punia’s Triumphant Victory
The expectations came from India’s medal-rich history at the Olympics as since 2008, Indian wrestlers have brought home medals in wrestling. Although he couldn’t win the gold he was aiming for, Bajrang did his village and his country proud by bringing home the bronze medal.
But little do most know what goes behind the scenes when a wrestler enters the wrestling ring. Gone is the mud of the akhada and in comes the field of play where not just brute force, but mindful playing is also important. In his bouts, Bajrang Punia too had to play in such a field, and he was at the risk of getting his leg broken.
“Movements were restricted because of injury tapes”
Speaking in an interview Bajrang said-
“My movements were very restricted on that first day because of the tapes which the physio had asked me to wear. But on the second day during the medal bouts, I decided I am not wearing any tape. It was the first time I was having to do anything like that, I normally never get injured before a tournament,”
as quoted by India Today.
“Medal zaroori hai”: Punia Was Close to Getting his Leg Broken
Going in further detail, the 27-year-old athlete added-
“It was the first time I was playing a bout after an injury, and it was all very new for me. The doctor insisted that I should wear a tape. But I said that the worst that can happen is that I will break my leg and will have to undergo a surgery.”
“Medal zaroori hai (Medal is important)”, the athlete said, casually.
What was the leg injury Bajrang Punia Suffered?
The injury that’s referred here is the one he endured in July during the Ali Aliyev tournament that was played in Russia. During a bout with Azerbaijan’s Haji Aliyev, Punia not only suffered a defeat, but also injured his knee.
After the injury, Punia was advised rest and was asked to focus more on his recovery, he chose to get to the wrestling mat as Olympics was inching close.
“Will have enough time to recover, opportunity will not come”
Although Punia wasn’t at his attacking best during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, and he fought with a leg injury without a knee tape, he defeated Daulet Niyazbekov from Kazakhstan with 8-0.
“I told myself this is a fight for which I have to give everything. I knew it was my last chance and even if I got injured it didn’t matter, I will have enough time to recover. This opportunity will not come. If I had played the same way in the semi-final, it could have been a different result. But the knee made it difficult,”
-he was quoted saying in reports.