Unsuitable in freestyle, Gurpreet excels in Greco-Roman
Punjabi Greco-Roman wrestler Gurpreet Singh covered himself in glory, winning a second gold at the World Ranking Series in Rome on Thursday.
The 27-year-old picked up an 8-5 victory over Turkish Burhan Akbudak in the final of the 82kg class to add to the gold he won last year in the same weight class in the Italian town of Sassari.
The feat is all the more significant as India has won most of its laurels, including Olympic medals, in the freestyle.
Singh’s performance also helped India gain 80 points and climb to fourth place behind Turkey (112 points), the United States (95) and Egypt (82).
Previously, Sunil Kumar had settled for silver in 87 kg and Sajan Bhanwal had won bronze in 77 kg in Greco-Roman.
Singh attributed his success to “proper homework.” “My strategy was not to concede any points in the initial phase of the fight and it paid off,” he said from Rome.
âAfter giving up 3-4 points in the first three minutes of the six-minute game, it’s still difficult to recover. I was ready to fight hard for the six minutes, âhe added.
Although Singh competes in 77kg (Olympic category), he upgraded to 82kg (non-Olympic category) for the Rome competition in order to avoid losing weight twice in 15 days and also gain vital international exposure. .
Earlier this month, Singh won the national selection events in the 77kg at Sonepat but asked the Wrestling Federation of India to allow him to compete in a higher weight class in Rome.
The Punjabi police wrestler also won the national title in the 77kg category last year.
Singh’s longtime personal trainer Ranbir Singh Kundu said losing weight is not an option as it takes at least a week to resume normal training after that. âSince the goal this year is to earn a berth at the Tokyo Olympics, it was not a good idea to lose weight twice in January, once for the national trials and once for the competition in the ranking series, “Kundu said.
Kundu said the idea of ââcompeting in 82 kg is also to prepare for the Asian Olympic qualifiers which will be held in Xi’an (China) in March. “Gurpreet will skip the Asian Championships in February in Delhi and will devote his energy to securing a berth in Tokyo in Xi’an.”
When Kundu took Singh under his wings, the eight-year-old boy was overweight. In fact, Kundu asked his parents to introduce him to the throwing events because of his height and weight. “He was not making any progress in wrestling so I asked his parents to move him to track and field.”
But the advice was rejected. âFrom there my task was first to reduce his weight and then think about his struggle. I asked him to cycle to the training site, which was about 11 miles from his home, and then to do his regular exercises. The strict diet lasted for two years and it started to progress.
Singh, like other aspiring wrestlers in the country, was introduced to freestyle because the Greco-Roman is not very popular. âBut during his formative years, we observed that he was not good at leg attacks. Therefore, we transferred it to Greco-Roman, where upper body strength is what matters, âKundu said. Singh won his first Greco-Roman medal, a bronze medal, at the 2009-2010 National Cadet Championships in Nainital. In 2016, the wrestler, who is based near Chandigarh, set his sights on the Rio Olympics. But at the 2015 World Championships, the qualifying event for Rio, he lost in the quarterfinals.
After keeping a low profile in 2016, he progressed well the following year, winning bronze in the 77kg at the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games held in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan in September.
He was supposed to postpone Ashgabat’s performance at the Jakarta 2018 Asian Games, but lost in the first round. âHe conceded points at the start and couldn’t recover afterwards. It shattered his dream of a podium, âKundu said.
The Rome event, says Singh, was a good learning lesson. âA solid finish is a big advantage for future competitions,â he said.