It has been reported earlier that Bajrang Punia has parted ways with longtime coach Shako Bentinidis of Georgia but Bajrang has dismissed the report saying that there is no truth in those reports. Bajrang is currently undergoing rehabilitation for an elbow injury and will resume training soon.
It has been reported earlier that Bajrang Punia has parted ways with longtime coach Shako Bentinidis of Georgia but Bajrang has dismissed the report saying that the Georgian is very much in his team and he has no plans to make any change to his support staff. Bajrang, who is the only Indian to have won three medals at the wrestling Worlds, has expressed no intention of changing his coach.
“I fail to understand who has said this and why. Shako is my coach and I should have been asked about it. I really felt bad after reading that frivolous report. There is no truth in it,” Bajrang, who sealed his quota for the Tokyo Olympics at the Worlds, told the PTI.
“He is my personal coach, arranged by JSW Sports (Jindal Group’s sports wing). This is beyond me to understand why it was reported that I have sacked him. Who is saying this and why? I don’t intend to change my coach,” he added.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), however, is reportedly unhappy with Bentinidis' wrong call during Punia's semi-final bout against Kazakhstan's Daulet Niyazbekovat at the recent World Championships in Nur-Sultan which ultimately led to Bajrang losing the match and settling for bronze. In the match, Bentinidis had challenged the judge's decision to give Niyazbekov four points after a move from Bajrang.
But the decision stayed and Bajrang had to concede a point. The tie ended at 9-9 but the Kazakh was declared the winner on tie-breaker rules. WFI is also not happy that Bajrang’s leg defense is still very weak. It has also been learned that Bentinidis had to even apologise to the WFI in Nur Sultan for taking that protest call which proved to be a turning point in the match.
But Manisha Malhotra, JSW Sports’ Head of Sports Excellence and Scouting, has made it clear that neither the federation nor Bajrang at any stage wanted to let go of the coach
“I know Federation was not happy with his protest. But look at the bigger picture. Shako has got Bajrang to number one position in the world. He has done something correct with him,” Malhotra said.
“Yes he is abrasive. I agree. But nobody hired him for his personality. If he is getting the job done, it is okay. There is a lot of pressure on Bajrang to win medal at Olympics and so close to Olympics, it’s also not strategically a good move to change coach now at this stage, so there is no plan to change anything.”
On the record, WFI said it has no information on the issue and claimed that they are concerned with the Olympic medal for which Bajrang is free to train with the coach of his choice.
“It’s matter related to Bajrang and only he can decide if he wants Shako with him or not. We have not appointed him,” WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said. “We can’t tell wrestlers that you don’t train with so and so coach. We are concerned with the Olympic medal. If somebody does not train, we can force him to train but Bajrang is training and he has freedom to train with the coach of his choice.”
The experienced foreign coach has also rejected allegations that he took a bit of appearance money meant for Bajrang without keeping him informed about it, during the ‘Grapple at the Garden Beat the Streets’ event in New York.
“I am as pure as a source of water,” Bentinidis told PTI from Georgia. “Do you think it is possible for me to call the US Federation and the organisers to say that give me Bajrang’s money?”
Both Bajrang and Manisha also backed the Georgian on the issue and believe that such an incident has not occurred. Bentinidis added that they have to quickly forget everything and start preparing for Tokyo. Bajrang is undergoing rehabilitation for an elbow injury and will resume training with Bentinidis soon.
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