Junior Asian Wrestling Championships: First golden high for Sajan Bhanwal
Before today Sajan Bhanwal had won 4 international medals, all of them bronze. On Monday, he climbed the all-important two steps on the podium, to experience his first golden high. His victory in the final of the 77kg Greco Roman was the high point for the hosts on Day 1 of the Asian Junior Wrestling Championship. For the past four years, Sajan, the national junior champion, has been India’s best Greco Roman wrestler across weight categories with medals at Asian Championships and World Championships. He lived up to his reputation as he dominated his bouts against rivals from Tajikistan, South Korea and Iran. Ignoring a bleeding cut above his left eye, Sajan didn’t concede a single point in his three bouts.
“It’s a great feeling to win the gold medal in front of the home crowd. Everyone in the family has been waiting for this for a long time. They always asked me when I will stop winning bronze medals and finally get a gold. With so many close friends and my coach Rajveer Chikkara in the stands, it was a great day for me. So many people are congratulating me and my father,” the 20-year-old wrestler says.
The journey to the gold medal hasn’t been easy for Sajan, whose father Mahipal, a farmer in the Kasandi village in Sonipat, didn’t have the financial resources to support the family’s wrestling star. And that’s the reason, Mahipal asked his son to give up on academics and join Pratap School in Kharkhoda. Though, it is called school, the Kharkhoda institution is primarily wrestling academy.
“I was never really interested in studies so my father decided to send me to Pratap School. It turned my life. I wasn’t keen on studies. Once I reached Kharkhoda, I concentrated on freestyle for six months. I realised that I wasn’t good at freestyle as well. So I switched to Greco Roman and fortunes changed. My father used to ask for money from his friends and people in the village so that I could concentrate on wrestling. All that ends today,” he says.
The gold medal wasn’t the only good news for the day for Sajan. After his phenomenal run at the Asian meet, he is now all set to join the Indian Air Force.
“I was desperate to win this medal. I had planned this final and kept thinking about it. The Iran wrestler is good but I had beaten wrestlers from Iran before, so I was confident. I planned not to give any points early. I knew he will make a mistake so I waited and I came up with a counter,” he says.
India coach Naresh Kumar said that Sajan has a strong Greco Roman basics. “During age-group wrestling in India, we do not focus much on stance and base of a Greco-Roman wrestler. But Sajan has a great stance which helps him to get a stable position on the mat. The Iran wrestler have a great stance as well but Sajan matched him today,” Naresh says. Besides Sajan no other Indian wrestlers could match the Iran wrestlers in the final bout. Iran proved their status as the powerhouse of Asian wrestling. They had a wrestler in each of the five final that were contested today. In 55kg, Vijay lost to Pouya Mohammad Naserpour 0-8 while Aryan Panwar suffered a heartbreaking loss in the 130 kg final to Amin Mohammadzaman Mirzazadeh 1-2.