CWG 2022, Wrestling: PM Narendra Modi’s words motivated me after Olympic heartbreak, says Deepak Punia

Deepak Punia came close to winning a medal on his maiden Olympics appearance. In a heartbreaking manner, the young wrestler from Haryana missed out on a podium finish after losing a fiercely-contested bout to Miles Amine of San Marino in the men’s 86kg wrestling category.

Deepak had gone to Tokyo with a lot of dreams. Winning an Olympic medal was his late mother’s dream as well but the youngster, who is one of the highly-rated up-and-coming wrestlers in the country, felt agonizingly short of finishing on the podium in the Japanese capital.

Minutes after that valiant bronze medal bout in Tokyo, Deepak Punia received a social media message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi. “Deepak Punia lost the Bronze narrowly but he has won our hearts. He is a powerhouse of grit and talent. My best wishes to Deepak for his future endeavours,” PM Modi had tweeted.

Cut to August 5, 2022, Deepak Punia won a gold medal in his maiden Commonwealth Games appearance. The Indian wrestler dethroned Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam, a two-time champion, in the big final, flaunting his defensive ability and composure at the highest level.

Missing the Tokyo Olympics medal still pinches Deepak Punia, but the youngster believes the CWG medal is a fine start to his journey of realizing the Olympics dream in Paris in 2024.

Speaking to India Today from Birmingham, Deepak Punia recalled his interaction with PM Modi after the Tokyo Olympics and said his words of encouragement motivated him and helped him overcome the heartbreak from last year.

“I want to thank my countrymen, I want to thank PM Modi. After I lost the medal at the Tokyo Olympics, PM Modi called me and motivated me. He said ‘Don’t worry, my boy. You will be able to do better in the future,” Deepak Punia said.

“I was not able to fulfill that (winning the Tokyo medal). But I have been able to now achieve my first target by winning the gold in the Commonwealth Games. My ultimate target is the Paris Games. Asian Games next and then Paris,” he added.

INDIA VS PAKISTAN FINAL

Deepak was up against Pakistan’s Inam, who had won gold in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi in 2010 and Gold Coast in 2018. However, the young Indian said he was not focused on his opponent’s reputation and that he stepped onto the mat in the final with a single-minded focus on winning gold medal.

“The challenge was very special. It was an India vs Pakistan bout. He (Muhammad Inam) was a senior campaigner. But I didn’t take any extra pressure. I wanted to focus on my goal and achieve it. It turned out that way.

“It feels very good to win a gold medal for the country,” Deepak said.

Deepak was one of India’s 6 medalists on the opening day of the competition. The 23-year-old joined Sakshi Malik and Bajrang Punia as one of the three gold medalists for India on August 5.

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