After a long hiatus, Punia, a World Championship silver medallist, is happy to hit the mat again at the Individual Wrestling World Cup. The 27-year-old wrestler is targeting a podium finish.
“I was eagerly waiting for a major competition so that we can participate and prepare ourselves for the Olympics. A wrestler cannot live without a wrestling mat. Now, the time has come. I want to give my best in the World Cup. The focus is on the Olympics. Olympics is my main target,” Punia told Timesofindia.com in an exclusive interview.
The ongoing Wrestling World Cup in Belgrade, Serbia is the first international competition that Indian wrestlers will be participating in since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I didn’t miss out on the training part in the lockdown period. I was following my schedule like in normal times. The major focus is on the World Cup right now. After a long time, we are all participating in a major tournament like a World Cup and I don’t want to make any mistakes. I am fully prepared. I have worked a lot in some areas. I didn’t go out with friends for enjoyment. I was just focusing on my training. I was also in touch with Sushil bhaisaab (two time Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar). He has given me motivation and tips ahead of the World Cup,” Deepak further told TimesofIndia.com.
Deepak Punia and Sushil Kumar. (Twitter Photo)
The World Cup started on December 12 with the Greco Roman bouts.
Punia, who will be competing in the 86kg category, will be seen in action on December 17.
“The World Cup is a big tournament. I want to give my hundred percent. I will take it one bout at a time. A medal is definitely on my mind. But the main target is the Olympics,” he said.
For Punia, a former junior world champion and a silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships, the World Cup will be a platform to learn and improve on certain areas ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
“I want to improve in some areas. For that, we all need to participate in as many tournaments as possible. Training and exercises are important, but the real learning experience comes from competitions,” the 27-year-old wrestler said.
Apart from Punia, Ravi Kumar (57 kg), Rahul Aware (61 kg), Naveen (70 kg), Gourav Baliyan (79 kg), Satyawart Kadian (97 kg) and Sumit (125 kg) will represent India in Men’s freestyle wrestling in Belgrade.