A show of strength: India’s most popular wrestlers | The Financial Express

A show of strength: India’s most popular wrestlers

In the past few years, India has displayed an exceptional show of strength at the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. At the recently concluded CWG 2022, India won the most gold and bronze medals in wrestling. As National Sports Day is celebrated on August 29, we bring you profiles of some popular wrestlers.

A show of strength: India’s most popular wrestlers
At CWG 2022 Birmingham, he won a gold in the Men's Freestyle 65 kg.

Bajrang Punia
Indian freestyle wrestler Bajrang Punia, who competes in the 65-kg weight category, won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. He is the only Indian wrestler to win three medals at the World Wrestling Championships. At CWG 2022 Birmingham, he won a gold in the Men’s Freestyle 65 kg. He has been awarded FICCI India Sports Award 2020, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2019, Padma Shri Award in 2019 and Arjuna Award in 2015.

The Great Khali
The Great Khali, whose real name is Dalip Singh Rana, is not only an Indian professional wrestler but a wrestling promoter, and actor. Before he began his wrestling journey in 2000, he was an assistant sub-inspector in the Punjab Police. One of the seven siblings, Khali is known to suffer from acromegaly, which among other symptoms causes increased height or gigantism and chin protrusion. He was discovered by a police officer while serving as a security guard, who then got him inducted into Punjab Police in 1993. Once he moved to Jalandhar, he trained in various gyms to become a wrestler and was later selected for wrestling training in the United States. He also appeared in Hollywood and Bollywood films and been a part of TV and reality shows. He was recently inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame as a member of the 2021 class.

Also Read: Building great sportsmanship in India

Dara Singh
Indian wrestler, actor, director and politician Dara Singh Randhawa had an illustrious career and was immensely popular. He was the first sportsperson to be nominated to be a part of the Rajya Sabha. He is also known for playing the role of Hanuman in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayan.Singh had defeated Tiger Joginder Singh in 1954 to lift the title of Rustam-e-Hind and also received a silver cup from Maharaja Hari Singh. He also won the Commonwealth Championship in 1959 by defeating George Gordienko in Calcutta and in 1968, he went on to win the world championship. Singh was inducted into the Wrestling Observer Newsletter Hall of Fame in 1996. In 2018, WWE inducted Singh in WWE Hall of Fame Legacy class of 2018.

KD Jadhav
Indian athlete Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was a wrestler who won a bronze medal at the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki. He became the first athlete from independent India to have won an individual medal in the Olympics after Norman Pritchard who won two silver medals in 1900 in athletics under colonial India. He was also the first from India to win in wrestling, as before him medals were largely won in field hockey. However, Jadhav who belonged to the Goleshwar village in Maharashtra, never received a Padma Award. He received the Arjuna Award in 2000 posthumously for his contribution to wrestling.

The Great Gama
The Great Gama or Rustam-e-Hind whose real name was Ghulam Mohammad Baksh Butt was a wrestler in British India. The undefeated wrestling champion was born in 1878 in Amritsar district. In 1910, he was awarded a version of the World Heavyweight Championship. Considered one of the greatest Indian wrestlers of all time, Gama is known to have fought and won over 5,000 matches. At the age of 10, he was first noticed by Maharaja of Jodhpur when Gama entered a competition. Maharaja of Datia later took him into training.

Sakshi Malik
Freestyle wrestler Sakshi Malik became the first female wrestler to win a medal in the Olympics at the 2016 Summer Olympics in the 58 kg category. She also previously won the Silver at 2014 Commonwealth Games and Bronze at the 2015 Asian 2015 Asian Wrestling Championships. Malik’s father was a bus conductor while her mother, a supervisor at a health clinic. For her, inspiration came from her grandfather who was also a wrestler. In 2017, she was awarded the Padma Shri and in 2016, she was awarded with Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna award. She is married to fellow wrestler Satyawart Kadian. This year at the CWG 2022, Malik won a gold in the Women’s Freestyle 62 kg.

Deepak Punia
Indian freestyle wrestler and junior commissioned officer in the Indian Army, Deepak Punia is an Indian freestyle wrestler. Punia, who hails from Haryana, won a silver medal at the 2019 World Wrestling Championships in the freestyle 86 kg category. This year at the Commonwealth Games, Punia won gold in the Men’s Freestyle 86 kg.

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