Indian star wrestler Bajrang Punia withdraws from Yasar Dogu competition after straining leg muscles in training

Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist Bajrang Punia has withdrawn from the Yasar Dogu wrestling tournament, a world ranking series, in Turkey after straining a muscle in his lower leg during training.

Medical experts in Istanbul have advised him not to compete as it could further aggravate the problem, Punia personal trainer Sujeet Maan said on Saturday.

India have fielded a strong squad in the four-day Yasar Dogu competition which ends on Sunday.

“On the advice of the team physio and the doctor, we have decided not to participate in the World Ranking Series,” Maan told Sportskeeda by phone from Istanbul. “Medical experts believe the injured muscle should not be taxed to prevent further pain.”

The Istanbul World Ranking Series was Punia’s first competition since the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where he won bronze in the men’s 65kg freestyle. The 28-year-old star freestyle wrestler was looking forward to competing in Turkey to assess his fitness.

Punia has been training since January with his personal trainer to prepare for the World Ranking Series.

In preparation for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Punia injured his knee in June 2021. He braved it to finish on the podium in Tokyo.

After the Olympics, Punia also parted ways with Georgian wrestling expert Shako Bentinidis, who has mentored the Indian wrestler since 2018. In January this year, the Jakarta 2018 Asian Games champion asked Maan to become his personal trainer.

To maintain his fitness, Punia will continue exercising his upper body muscles, his trainer said.

“We need to maintain a certain level of fitness because the Asian Wrestling Championships in April are an important tournament of the year,” explained the coach. “We don’t want to miss the continental competition.”

The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham in July and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September are the other two major international competitions this year.

Edited by Sudeshna Banerjee

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Robert J. King