Posts misidentify wrestler in video as 'Indian Olympian'

·2 min read

A video has been shared repeatedly in social media posts that claim it shows Indian wrestler Bajrang Punia, who won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, showing off his skills in an amateur match. This is false. It actually shows another Indian wrestler, Mosam Ali, competing in the Indian state of Punjab in 2020.

The clip was shared here on Facebook on September 7, 2022. It has been viewed more than 700 times.

The 21-second video shows two men wrestling, cheered on by hundreds of spectators in a dirt arena -- a setup often seen in northern India for grassroots matches.

The wrestler wearing black shorts flips and tosses his opponent several times, leaving him visibly disorientated.

The post's English-language caption reads: "All-time gem from our ace wrestler Bajrang Punia."

Screenshot of the false Facebook post, taken on September 8, 2022

Bajrang Punia is an Indian freestyle wrestler from the north Indian state of Haryana who won a bronze medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

As of September 2022, he was also the only Indian wrestler to have won three medals at the World Wrestling Championships.

The video was viewed hundreds of times alongside similar claims on Facebook here and here, and on Twitter here.

However, the video actually shows Mosam Ali, another Punjab-based wrestler.

Reverse image and keyword searches found the video has been circulating since at least 2020, including on Facebook here and here, and on YouTube here. None of the posts mention Punia.

Further keyword searches on YouTube found an extended version of the video shared on YouTube on January 6, 2020 by an India-based entertainment channel called Puttha Fun Field.

"Mosam Ali new wrestling 2020, Mosam created a ruckus in public, Mosam Ali vs kallu," reads the video's Hindi-language description.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the video in the false posts (left) and the video uploaded on YouTube in 2020 (right):

Ali’s YouTube channel features several similar freestyle wrestling videos, although he did not publish the clip shared in the false posts. 

He told AFP he was the wrestler in the video shared in the false posts, adding that it was filmed in Malerkotla, a town in the north Indian state of Punjab.

"This is my wrestling video of 2020 in which I defeated the opponent," Ali told AFP. "You will find many such videos of my wrestling on the internet. Here in Punjab and Haryana, wrestling is organised at the local level like this."

Punia's brother, Harender Khudan, also told AFP the video in the misleading posts does not show the Indian Olympian.

"This video is being shared with a false claim -- it is not a video of Bajrang," he said.

Below is an image comparison of Ali in the video that circulated in the false posts (left) and an image of him published on his Facebook page (right):