Out of action for several months in 2016 due to a knee injury, former Asian champion wrestler Amit Dahiya is aiming to use the ongoing second edition of the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) as a springboard for a comeback.
The injury had also prevented Dahiya from quaifying for the Rio Olympics. But the 23-year-old is now focused on winning gold at the Asian Championships to be held here next year.
"I could not qualify for the Olympics due to my injury. The injury hampered my preparations and I lost in the qualifiers. I missed last year's PWL as well due to injury," Amit told IANS in an interview .
"So I am now focused on making a strong comeback with this year's PWL."
Amit, who had taken silver at the 2013 World Championships as well as gold at the 2012 Asian Championships, is a part of the Uttar Pradesh franchise in the PWL that began here on Monday.
Named 'UP Dangal' the power-packed squad also inlcudes former Asian champion Amit Dhankar (65kg) and Mausam Khatri (97kg) along with the Phogat sisters Geeta and Babita in the women's section.
Amit is, however, reluctant to accept the tag of favourites for his team.
"Every team has several strong wrestlers as well as a few who are at a lower level. So the teams are equally matched this year. So it is difficult to pick out a favourite," he said.
"Our team is very good. But I feel Delhi will be quite difficult to beat this year."
The second edition of the PWL will see Uttar Pradesh face Punjab Royals in their first engagement.
Amit, who competes in the 57 kilogram division, will open his PWL campaign against reigning Olympic champion Vladimer Khinchegashvili.
Amit had lost to the Georgian superstar 1-7 in the quarter-finals of the now defunct 55kg freestyle category at the 2012 London Olympics. Vladimer had eventually finished with the silver medal at the Games.
But the Haryana grappler is determined to beat the 25-year-old Georgian who is the costliest wrestler in this year's PWL auction with a price tag of Rs 48 lakh.
"I had fought him for the first time at the 2012 Olympics. I had lost to him. At that time I was very young and inexperienced. Over the last four years I have learned how to play at such a high level and adjust according to the strengths and tactics of the opponent.
"Because of my young age and inexperience, I did not know how to compete at such a high level. I was a bit scared before entering the Olympic arena," the reigning Commonwealth Games champion said.
"This year my first bout in the PWL is against him. I am determined to beat him this time. I am mentally prepared. Let us see what happens."
Talking about the PWL's effect on Indian wrestling, Amit said competing against some of the best wrestlers in the wolrd has helped the Indians to improve themselves.
"Indian wrestlers have learnt a lot after competing in the PWL. We expect to improve further in the second edition. There is a lot of excitement among the junior wrestlers as they can earn big money if they manage to compete in the PWL. We seniors also learn a lot by competing against world and Olympic champions.
"We are as strong as the best in the world. The only difference is in the training and how perfectly they execute their moves. We have also improved our training after watching them. Our Olympic medals tally will improve in the coming years," he said.
"After Sushil Kumar took medals at the Olympics, it changed the attitude of Indian wrestlers. Now they feel that it is not too difficult to win medals at the Olympics."