Wrestling World Championships: Bajrang Punia's coach Shako Bentinidis says he needs to work on power, lower body technique
After Bajrang Punia became the first Indian wrestler to win two medals at the World Championships, he and his coach Shako Bentinidis talk to Firstpost about what the 24-year-old needs to do from now to become even better.
"From Bajrang, possible everything!" says Shako Bentinidis.
It is possible that you have not seen Bentinidis. But it is almost impossible not to have heard the Georgian. Between ‘attack, attack, attack, Bajji’ and ‘yes, yes, yes, Bajrang’, it’s Bentinidis’ sonorous voice that forms the soundtrack of each Bajrang Punia bout these days. It’s also Bentinidis’ insights which are transforming the 24-year-old from a young wrestler with potential to a world-beater.
“Bajrang is sensational wrestler and an amazing sportsman. I am very happy to be working with him. I think Bajrang is capable of winning Olympic gold for India,” Bentinidis tells Firstpost just days after his ward made history in Budapest by clinching a silver medal in the 65kg weight class. The silver made him the only Indian to have won two medals at the Worlds — his first came at the 2013 World Championships, also coincidentally held in Budapest.
Bajrang’s silver medal at Budapest is the icing on the cake of a splendid year for the Indian grappler, in which he won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, not to mention the Yasar Dogu event.
Yet, Bentinidis and Bajrang maintain that a few kinks need to be ironed out, in light of the defeat in the 65kg final to Japan’s Takuto Otaguro.
“Wrestling mein utar chadav hota rehta hai. Koshish meri puri thi, par shayad aur accha ho shakta tha. Agle saal ki aur acchi taiyaari rahegi, har haar se ek seekh zaroor milta hai. (Ups and downs are a part and parcel of wrestling. I tried my best, but maybe I could have done better. Each defeat teaches you something new. This one taught me something important as well),” Bajrang says rather philosophically.
Nudge him for specifics and the JSW-sponsored athlete only offers: “I think in order to improve my overall performance, I need to boost my power.”
Bentinidis adds: “Bajrang is already a very good wrestler, almost a complete wrestler. But he needs to improve on some technical aspects. We didn't train a lot after the Asian Games medal. But by the next Olympic qualification tournament, we hope to have changed many things technically. Right now, Bajrang needs to work on his power. And what is also critical is working on his lower body technique.”
That vulnerability in defending against lower body attacks led to him conceding a 0-5 lead to Otaguro, a former World Cadet champion, in the final inside the first 30 seconds even as Bentinidis bellowed instructions from the sidelines loudly enough for it to echo inside the 12,000-capacity Papp Laszlo Sportarena. The Indian’s technical superiority saw him claw back to within one point at 4-5 in just over a minute. But the second period saw him drop points again after failing to defend against lower body attacks. But what stood out throughout the bout was how Bajrang kept attacking despite the deficit growing to 6-12 at one point.
Bentinidis points out that Bajrang had only recently acquired this ‘winning psychology’.
“Bajrang did not have good psychology earlier, he did not have champion psychology. That is what separates the gold medallists from the silver and the bronze medallists.
“When I started training with Bajrang, he did not have a very competitive spirit or a competitive psychology. But I got him involved in many different sports like basketball and football. In these matches I asked him to play forward and try to be more competitive. The thing in sports, be it football or basketball or wrestling, is that you need to have the same psychology that you are a winner.”
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