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Tokyo Olympics Countdown: Meet the athletes – Bajrang Punia & Vinesh Phogat | Tokyo Olympics News

In our countdown to the Tokyo Olympics we are regularly profiling some of the biggest Indian medal contenders.
Today we feature two of the biggest medal contenders from the wrestling mat – Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat.
Bajrang Punia
Date of Birth: February 26, 1994
Birth Place: Jhajjar, Haryana
Sport/Event(s): Wrestling (Freestyle – 65kg)
Current World Ranking: 1
Major achievements:
* Silver in 2021 Almaty Asian Championships (65kg)
* Silver in 2020 New Delhi Asian Championships (65kg)
* Gold in 2019 Xi’an Asian Championships (65kg)
* Bronze in 2019 Nur-Sultan World Championships (65kg)
* Gold in 2018 Jakarta Asian Games (65kg)
* Gold in 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (65kg)
* Silver in 2018 Budapest World Championships (65kg)
* Bronze in 2018 Bishkek Asian Championships (65kg)
* Gold in 2017 New Delhi Asian Championships (65kg)
* Silver in 2017 Bydgoszcz World U23 Championships (65kg)
* Gold in 2017 Brakpan Commonwealth Championship (65kg)
* Gold in 2017 Ashgabat Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games (70kg)
* Gold in 2016 Singapore Commonwealth Championship (65kg)
* Silver in 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games (61kg)
* Silver in 2014 Incheon Asian Games (61kg)
* Silver in 2014 Astana Asian Championships (61kg)
* Bronze in 2013 Budapest World Championships (60kg)
* Bronze in 2013 New Delhi Asian Championships (60kg)

Bajrang Punia. (YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images)
Indian wrestling is celebrating its highest number of quotas – eight – for the Olympics. The anticipation of a best ever performance at the Tokyo Games is hard to miss and India’s star male wrestler Bajrang Punia is among the medal contenders. Bajrang was born in Jhajjar but moved to Delhi as a kid, where he trained under Olympic medallist Yogeshwar Dutt.
Bajrang regained the No. 1 ranking in the 65kg category by defeating Mongolia’s Tulga Tumur Ochir at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series tournament in Rome in March.
The 27 year old booked a Tokyo Olympic quota in September 2019 after winning a bronze medal at the World Championships.
In March this year, Bajrang quit social media so that he was not distracted and could fully concentrate on his Olympic preparations. Back in 2008, Bajrang had stayed away from his mobile phone for almost a decade till 2017 to avoid any kind of distraction.
In August last year, in order to improve his agility, reflexes and feet and body movement on the mat, Bajrang took up boxing under boxing coach Ronald Simms.
With the Olympics just around the corner, Bajrang opted to go to Russia with his coach Georgian Shako Bentinidis for mat-training with strong sparring partners.
Vinesh Phogat
Date of Birth: August 25, 1994
Birth Place: Bhiwani district, Haryana
Sport/Event(s): Wrestling (Freestyle – 48kg/50kg/53kg)
Highest World Ranking: 1
Major achievements:
* Gold in 2021 Almaty Asian Championships (53kg)
* Bronze in 2020 New Delhi Asian Championships (53kg)
* Bronze in 2019 Nur-Sultan World Championships (53kg)
* Bronze in 2019 Xi’an Asian Championships (53kg)
* Gold in 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games (50kg)
* Gold in 2018 Jakarta Asian Games (50kg)
* Silver in 2018 Bishkek Asian Championships (50kg)
* Silver in 2017 New Delhi Asian Championships (55kg)
* Bronze in 2016 Bangkok Asian Championships (53kg)
* Silver in 2015 Doha Asian Championships (48kg)
* Gold in 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games (48kg)
* Bronze in 2014 Incheon Asian Games (48kg)
* Bronze in 2013 New Delhi Asian Championships (51kg)
* Silver in 2013 Johannesburg Youth Wrestling Championship (51kg)

Vinesh Phogat. (Photo by Allsport Co./Getty Images)
In 2018, Vinesh Phogat became the first Indian female wrestler to win gold in both the Commonwealth and Asian Games.
Vinesh secured the 53kg class Olympic quota for Tokyo in 2019 at Nur-Sultan, where she clinched a Bronze as her maiden World Championship medal.
Vinesh is continuing training overseas with her Hungarian coach Woller Akos till the Tokyo Games. Vinesh will train in Budapest until June 9. Vinesh is set to travel for the Poland Open (June 9 to 13) and then return to Budapest and will be based there till July 2.
Vinesh was one of India’s brightest medal prospects at the 2016 Rio Games, but she suffered a freak knee injury during her quarterfinal bout against Sun Yanan of China and had to be stretchered out. The incident denied her what many were calling a sure shot medal.
There was no stopping her after she recovered. In March this year, Vinesh grabbed the 53kg gold medal along with the World No. 1 rank at the Matteo Pellicone Ranking Series event in Rome. Vinesh defeated Canada’s Diana Mary Helen Weicker 4-0 in the title clash.
Vinesh changed her weight category from 50kg to 53kg for the Tokyo Olympics in 2019 and added a new repertoire to her game under Woller Akos to become a better wrestler, both skill and technique wise.
In Tokyo, Vinesh will face stiff competition from the likes of Japan’s Mayu Mukaida, China’s Pang Qianyu, Poland’s Roksana Zasina, Sweden’s Sofia Mattsson and Belarus’ Vanesa Kaladzinskaya, among others. But she remains a strong medal contender for India.

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