Bajrang Punia splits with coach Shako Bentinidis

New Delhi: Top Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia has decided to split with Georgian coach Shako Bentinidis and may hire Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Andriy Stadnik if talks with the Ukranian succeed.

Under the guidance of Bentinidis, the 27-year-old Bajrang won an Olympic bronze medal in Tokyo, 2018 Asian Games gold and a bronze medal at the 2019 world championship.

However, there has not been much improvement on his perennial weak leg defence. Yes, I am looking for a new coach for the new Olympic cycle, Bajrang said. There is nothing wrong with Shako, I learnt a lot from him but a new coach can be tried for better results, he said.

However, according to Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) sources, Bajrang was, of late, not happy with the way Bentinidis carried out his job. We have learnt that Shako did not attend to him properly when he suffered an injury in Russia before the Tokyo Olympics. So a change was expected, said the source.

Stadnik is the husband of Maria, a four-time Olympic medallist and two-time world champion. It has been learnt that Bajrang has approached Stadnik and he is also keen to work with the elite Indian athlete.

Andriy is in running for the Ukrainian Federation elections. If he wins, then it will be tough for him to tie up with Bajrang. Let’s see, said a source.

WFI may also replace Russian coach Kamal Malikov, attached with Ravi Dahiya, the Tokyo Games silver medallist.

NT Bureau