Veteran Yogeshwar brimming with pride

Veteran Yogeshwar brimming with pride

Yogeshwar Dutt. DH photo

As Bajrang Punia fetched India’s first gold medal in the 2018 Asian Games, twitter flooded with congratulatory messages. Many of them were tagged to Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt, who has served as a mentor to the 24-year-old. Dutt was thrilled that Bajrang emulated his feat, achieved in the 2014 edition.  

For years, Punia has been in the shadow of Dutt, who has been India’s best wrestler in 60/65kg. The two met at the Chhatrasal stadium in 2008 when Punia was merely 13 and since then have been inseparable.

Dutt has zealously mentored Punia, funded him and protected him. The fact the two belonged to the same weight category only strengthened their bond.

Throughout, on his twitter page, Yogeshwar has addressed Punia as “bete”(son). He uploaded their picture of a training session when Punia reached the final and after he won the gold, followed it up with a snap of 2014 Incheon Asian Games –where Dutt won gold and Punia the bronze.  

Punia, who was inspired following Yogeshwar’s Olympic medal, had promised his mentor he would return with a gold medal from Jakarta. The 35-year-old was glad that Punia didn’t buckle under the pressure of being favourite.  

“I couldn’t be happier. He has made me and the whole country proud. In the Asian Games, competition is always tough, but Bajrang backed himself all through and won,” Dutt said.

“The opponent (Takatani Daichi of Japan) in the final had beaten him in the past, but he didn’t let that affect him. It was a good fight, it was very fast and Bajrang started on the right note by reeling off six points.”

Punia, who had started in 60 kg, had followed Dutt who shifted to the 65kg when the 60 kg was scrapped from Olympics.

He had observed Dutt from close quarters and would be a faithful, obedient ally when his mentor fought in trials. He never let his ambition come in way of their bond. Dutt, who has been a witness to Punia’s early struggles, now hopes he follows his steps in the Olympics too.

“He always had the talent, and he always had the ambition of becoming a well-known wrestler.

“This spirit, along with hard work, goes a long way in getting you success. Bajrang was always very dedicated to wrestling.

“He has been very resilient. Hopefully, he will keep it up and also make the Indian flag fly high in the Olympics,’ he said.