Kunal Purandare is Editor-Desk with the Forbes India magazine in Mumbai. He is also the author of two acclaimed books—Vinod Kambli: The Lost Hero and Ramakant Achrekar: Master Blaster’s Master. The postgraduate in economics with diplomas in journalism, advertising and public relations has been a journalist for more than a decade with previous stints at Daily News & Analysis and MiD DAY. Apart from fulfilling his editing and proofing duties for print and web, he also writes on sport and entertainment regularly. At Forbes India events, he can be seen hosting chat sessions with celebs. Apart from his love for reading and writing, he immerses himself in movies and music, likes exploring new places, and enjoys interesting conversations over cups of masala tea.
Deepak Punia doesn’t speak much, sometimes not even enough to complete a sentence. At times, the soft-spoken 21-year-old is barely audible over the phone. But put him in a ring and the World No 1 junior wrestler transforms into a formidable fighter. It is this tenacity that has contributed to his rise in the past year.
Last August, Punia became the first Indian in 18 years to win a Junior World Championship, when he beat Russia’s Alik Shebzukov in the 86 kg junior freestyle category in Tallinn, Estonia. Such was his determination to win the gold that he played the final despite sustaining a shoulder injury in the semis. “It was an exhilarating feeling. I felt proud at clinching the top honour,” says Punia, whose father is a milkman and mother a homemaker in the village of Chhara, in Haryana’s Jhajjar district.
He had to settle for a silver at the Senior World Championship in September because an ankle injury forced him to forfeit the final. However, making it to the last four was enough to get him an Olympic berth. “It was a mixed feeling… while I rued missing out on a gold, I was happy to book a ticket to Tokyo,” says Punia, who took a liking to the sport as a child after he saw people wrestling at local akhadas. The sport’s governing body, the United World Wrestling, named him Junior Wrestler of the Year in December.
Coach Virender Kumar says Punia has tremendous power and stamina. That apart, he is disciplined and willing to work on his shortcomings. “He is an attacking player who likes to overpower his opponent,” says Kumar.