World Champion silver medalist Deepak Punia has been named the Junior freestyle wrestler of the year by United World Wrestling (UWW) after an impressive season during which he made a phenomenal change from Junior to the senior circuit.
Punia had a breakthrough season when he became the first Indian wrestler in 18 years to win a junior world title. He then backed it up with a silver medal on his debut at the senior World Wrestling Championships.
When quizzed about how he felt after winning the award, he said; I am thrilled. It is a high prestige and honor for me to be selected among all the wrestlers from the world over. This is a significant source of inspiration for me to keep improving and giving my all”.
18-year old Punia, who has a lot of maturity, resourcefulness, and fearless on the big stage, made him the only Indian wrestler to make it o the final at Nur-Sultan.
However, an injury prevented him from taking the mat against Hassan Yazdani of Iran in the final. Still, Punia made it a debut to remember by grabbing a highly-coveted Tokyo Olympics berth in 86kg also.
This brilliant display propelled him to the No.1 position in 86kg in the UWW rankings. Punia, who is also a champion of the cadet world championships in 2016, is under the tutelage of Beijing Olympics silver medalist Murad Gaidarov.
Punia revealed he had been satisfied with the few days of training he had so far, and making sure Gaidarov has been working on his weaknesses, ground wrestling, and speed work and feels he is getting better.
His [Punia] confidence level no doubt has been steadily increasing, as we’ve seen in his previous matches. And there is a great feeling that he will give his 100% at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Written by: Olumide Akinnifesi