They say that fighting against the odds is a herculean task, and it might be for just one man. Then again, no one man can pull of such a feat, not on his own at least. Neither did Bajrang Punia, the prodigal wrestler who seized the opportunity and secured a podium finish for the nation in a sport that runs in the blood of rural India – kushti, or Greco-Roman wrestling, as the rest of the world knows it.
Bajrang’s father, Balvan Singh Punia, was himself a wrestler with an ambition to represent the nation and win a gold medal, so when it came to his son who suddenly showed an interest in taking up the sport, Balvan was ecstatic and encouraged him from day one.
The unwavering support provided to him by his mother, through her faith and prayers added fuel to his fire as he took on opponent after opponent and moved past every setback with ease. Even his injuries took a back seat when he saw the way his mother was supporting him with her faith.
His elder brother even decided to forgo an opportunity to work abroad and promptly returned to India to support his younger brother through tough times where Bajrang was facing not just financial, but also physical issues. His brother supported him at a time where he could barely afford food to sustain himself.
Bajrang was shaped by not one but many coaches. His childhood coaches, Ramfal Maan and Virender Dalal, meticulously worked on perfecting Bajrang’s wrestling foundations which helped him tackle the most formidable of opponents. Bajrang’s coach at Chhatrasal Stadium, Mahabali Satpal helped him further hone his skills to perfection and transformed him into a complete wrestler. Bajrang kept on improving his craft at the Inspire Institute of Sport, where his current coach and a three time Olympian, Shako Bentinidis, trained him to face the strongest of opponents.
All of this kept pushing Bajrang to perform better and better at the highest of stages and bringing accolades and medals to the whole nation.
Every time Bajrang stepped into an akhada or a ring, he was guided by the efforts and sacrifices of so many around him. Some call this teamwork. We like to call this, human potential multiplied.