Bajrang Punia, 27, is a freestyle wrestler who hails from Haryana, like many of his fellow wrestlers. Punia’s wrestling journey started when he was seven and his father decided to send him to a local mud wrestling school. His journey from age seven to 27 is a tale of ups and downs, sacrifices and dreams coming true.
He is the only Indian wrestler to have won three medals at the World Wrestling Championship. Punia also won a bronze medal at the Tokyo Olympics. He continued his success by clinching his third Commonwealth Games medal at the 2022 edition in Birmingham.
Born on February 26, 1994, in a Jat family in Khudan village of Haryana’s Jhajjar district, Bajrang Punia’s interest in wrestling kept growing once he started frequenting the mud wrestling school. He soon started bunking his regular school to spend more time wrestling. Slowly, recognition and medals started flowing in.
However, achievements come with sacrifices. To give his 100% to the sport, Punia has shunned all distractions. He has never been to a cinema hall, has never gone out sightseeing while on tours, and seldom uses his cell phone. Even his social media accounts are handled by his friend . “There are a lot of things I wanted to do but controlled myself,” the grappler had once said.
He got his first cell phone in 2017, to stay in touch with his mentor and ace wrestler Yogeshwer Dutt.
Punia’s consistency has been his greatest asset and has pushed him to world No. 1 ranking. At 19, Punia won a bronze medal in the 60-kg category in the World Wrestling Championship 2013. This was followed by a silver in the Commonwealth Games in the men’s 61-kg category in 2014. This performance was repeated in the Asian Games in the same year. Again, in 2014, Punia bagged a silver medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship.
He finally got his first gold medal at the 2017 Asian Wrestling Championship in Delhi. Followed it up with another gold at the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in freestyle 65-kg category. He completed a hat-trick of gold medals in the same year at the Asian Games.
His world number 1 ranking in the 65-kg category came after he pocketed a silver medal at the 2018 World Wrestling Championship. His ticket to Tokyo Olympics 2020 came in the form of a bronze medal at the 2019 World Championship.