Selected for Dronacharya, coach Maan still cherishes Arjuna award moment with Kalam

Express News Service

CHENNAI: More than 19 years ago, Sujeet Maan received the Arjuna Award from then President APJ Abdul Kalam at Rashtrapati Bhavan in New Delhi for winning laurels for the country on the wrestling mat. On November 30, Maan, now coach of noted wrestler Bajrang Punia, will again be felicitated, this time by President Droupadi Murmu at Rashtrapati Bhavan. He will be conferred Dronacharya Award in the regular category.    

Coach Sujeet Maan will
receive Dronacharya
Award on November 30.

The occasion and the award will always hold a special place in Maan’s heart but the wrestler-turned-coach feels the few seconds he got to spend with the late Abdul Kalam in 2003 are the most cherishable moments of his life. Even today, the photograph clicked during the award function is his WhatsApp display picture (DP) and Facebook profile picture.

“The DP I set is not for the award but for the few seconds I got to share with Kalam sir. It was a big occasion for me and I take pride in it. The awards are also important but more than them, it’s the opportunity I got to share the stage with Kalam sir I cherish more,” Maan told this daily.

Maan represented the country in the 2004 Olympics and won multiple medals in the Asian Championship from 1999 to 2004. He also clinched Commonwealth Championship gold in 2003. The 2006 World Championships was his last as a wrestler. After completing a coaching diploma programme from NIS Patiala, he joined the cadet and junior team as a coach in 2009. In the next two years, he moved to the senior teams and has been working with them since then.

Despite being in the coaching circuit for more than a decade, Maan feels the latest award will mark a new beginning as a coach. “The award will increase my responsibility towards the sport and country. I will have to work with more sincerity now as it’s my duty to win more laurels for the sports and the country,” Maan said.

Wrestling coach Sujeet Maan (right) receiving the Arjuna Award from then
President, APJ Abdul Kalam, in 2003

Punia won the fourth World Championships medal under the guidance of Maan a couple of months ago. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist is one of the biggest hopes for the country in the upcoming Asian Games and 2024 Olympics. However, Maan strongly believes the first goal is the Asiad medal and the 2023 World Championships, which will also serve as a qualifier for the Paris Games.

“The immediate goal is the Asiad and the Worlds next year. It’s quite difficult to incorporate changes in a senior wrestler’s style. Changing age-old habits and bringing in new ones is not easy but we are doing it. Time also changes as well as opponents. So we have to plan accordingly,” the coach said.

Soon after the award ceremony, Maan expects Punia to compete at the World Cup scheduled in the USA on December 10 and 11. He also hopes his ward gets an exposure trip ahead of the new season next year.
 

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