Milkman’s son Deepak Punia beats Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam to bring CWG gold

Last year when wrestler Deepak Punia lost the bronze medal against Myles Nazem Amine of San Marino in the 86 kg category at Tokyo Olympics, Punia’s desire for winning the medal for the country and his late mother remained unfulfilled,

Punia had lost his mother after qualifying for the Olympics in 2020 and with a medal opportunity missed in the Olympics, it meant that the 23-year-old Haryana youngster was disappointed and rejected.

On Friday night, as Punia won the gold medal with a win over Pakistan’s Muhammad Inam in men’s 86 kg category in Birmingham, father Subash was cheering for his son at their village Chhara in Jhajhar district and knew that Deepak would remember his late mother first after winning the medal.

“When the national camp was closed due to lockdown in 2020, Deepak spent 18 days with his ailing mother Krishna Punia at our village. My wife always wanted to see Deepak win an Olympic medal but unfortunately she lost her life on April 9, 2020. When Deepak lost the bronze medal, he felt dejected. But we made sure that he was given a warm welcome with dhol and sweets. Win and lose and part of sport and that’s what we wanted him to understand. Now that he has won a Commonwealth Games medal, we will celebrate it until he returns with the medal,” says father Subash while talking to The Indian Express.

Growing up in the village, where his father Subash ran a milk business with ten buffaloes and five cows at their home, a young Deepak would often listen to the tales of his father, uncles and cousins ​​fighting in local dangals.

While his elder cousin national champion Sunil Kumar would be famous as Sunil Chotiwala after winning many dangals sporting a choti, a young Deepak would join the Arya Virendra Akhada near the village at the age of five.

It was also the time, when Subash would fetch milk of more than 50 buffaloes at his village and sell at societies in Delhi ferrying on his motorcycle apart from seeing work at his three-acre farm at the village.

“Deepak would watch Sunil’s trophies and medals and would often play with them. When he was five, I got him enrolled at the Arya Virendra Akhada in our village and Deepak’s day would start at 5 am in the morning and he would spend most of his day at the akhada like other resident trainees before returning home in the evening. Sometimes, he would walk alone to the akhada or cycle even in rainy or extreme hot weather and would take home made lassi and ghee with him to the akhada,” remembers Subash.

While Deepak would often compete in the local dangals and would win dangals, it also meant that Subahs had to leave the milk business in 2011 and would commit his full time to Deepak traveling with him to local dangals and also preparing his diet and helping his needs .

“As he started winning dangals, I had to leave my milk business to support Deepak. I would prepare his diet apart from almond milk for Deepak and sometimes, we would arrive home at midnight after Deepka won village dangals. I regularly took loans from my friends and relatives to support his training and would repay when Deepak would win dangals or national titles and get cash awards,” says Subash.

Deepak Punia with his mother Krishna Punia after winning the junior world silver earlier.

In 2014, Deepak would be enrolled at the Chhatrasal stadium in Delhi under the watchful eyes of coach Virender Kumar and within two years, Deepak would become the world cadet champion in Georgia in 2016 before becoming the Asian Junior champion the same year.

In 2018, Deepak returned with a silver from the World Junior Wrestling Championship in Slovakia before he ended India’s 18-year-wait for a world junior champion with the title win in the 86 Kg category in the World Junior Wrestling Championship in Estonia.

“When he first joined the Chhatrasal stadium, we started making him learn the basics of mat wrestling as he was very strong in mud wrestling and would often slip or would catch the opponent’s clothing like in mud wrestling. But it took him no time to master the moves and strategy for mat wrestling. His feet movement was swift and he mastered moves like Dasti Khinch, Kehri Patt, Dohri Patt. His main strength has been the use of upper body as well as lower body moves,” remembers 50-year-old Virender Kumar, who now runs his own akhada near the Singhu border.

Kumar also adds that his ward loves to watch the bouts of two-time Olympic and three-time world champion Iranian Hassan Yazdini apart from spending his time chanting Hanuman Chalisa. “Scoring points with Kehri Patt or Dohri Patt has been Deepak’s strong point. Deepak also has liked to watch bouts of Iranian Hassan Yazdini, to whom he lost in the Asian championship earlier apart from other wrestlers in his free time and spending time chanting Hanuman Chalisa,” adds the coach.

At Punia’s home, elder sister Manisha Sangwan and Pinki have been managing things and know that if Deepak wins a medal, he would ask for his favorite dishes made by her mother to remember his mother and to celebrate like his mother always did. “Deepak was very close to our mother. Sometimes, he would get late and our mother would make choorma for him apart from making aloo paranthas for him and making sure that he carried with him to the akhada. When he returns with the CWG medal, having choorma will be his way to remember our mother,” shared Manisha.

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