Deepak Punia earned the silver medal in the men’s freestyle 86kg final at the World Wrestling Championships. The youngster, who is also the reigning World Junior Champion, had injured his ankle during in his first bout which turned troublesome later. That necessitated his withdrawal from the final where the gold was handed to Iran’s Hassan Aliazam Yazdani. If Punia would have won the match, he could have been the second wrestler to win gold. Only Sushil Kumar had clinched the gold in 2010 in Moscow. “I am a bit disappointed that I couldn’t fight for the gold but I am happy with my overall performance here. I will work hard and the aim is to win a medal in the Olympics,” said Deepak Punia to PTI.
The 19-year-old, who became the youngest Indian ever to make it to the finals of the World Championships, also booked his ticket for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. Deepak is the fourth Indian wrestler to book his Tokyo tickets this week. Following Vinesh Phogat, Bajrang Punia, and Ravi Kumar Dahiya. While each of them has won the bronze medal in the past, Deepak will be the only Indian to return home with a medal a silver.
Deepak reportedly took up wrestling to find a good job and settle down. He was even offered the post of a sepoy in the Indian Army back in 2016. But he declined the offer because his friend and wrestler Sushil Kumar reportedly encouraged him to keep wrestling. A few months later, Sushil decided to sponsor Deepak's career and that forced Deepak to become a full-time wrestler. Though he missed out on a great opportunity to wrestle with one of history's finest wrestlers, it is imperative to note that the last three years in Deepak's life is nothing short of a dream.
Deepak adhered to Sushil’s advice and within three years he bagged big titles. He became a World Cadet champion in 2016 and only last month won the junior world title, becoming only the fourth Indian ever to do so and first in 18 years. Within one month of that feat in Estonia, he found himself face-to-face with his idol and Iranian great Hasan Yazdani for a clash.