Sushil Kumar Gold medal win at CWG 2014


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The moment news came in that Sushil Kumar had drawn Pakistan’s Qamar Abbas in the final, the yellow metal was a foregone conclusion. Sushil had beaten Qamar before and for India’s most decorated Olympian, it was important he did not repeat the mistake he had made in the final of the 2012 London Olympics. He didn’t and in the process went on to win his second consecutive Commonwealth Games gold medal.

What adds to his achievement is the fact that Sushil had pushed himself up to the 74 kilograms category from his staple 66 kilograms and this was the first major international competition after the change. Anyone who knows a thing or two about wrestling will testify how difficult the transition can be. For Sushil, however, it was business as usual. Turning up like the way he does at Chattarsal stadium every morning at 4am, putting in hours and hours of labour, the top podium was the logical perch for this humble champion.

A Winning Persona

Having known Sushil well for years now, it is perhaps just to say that he is one of the most humble and modest stars one can come across. The one incident that serves as evidence to this statement is what happened immediately after he had won silver at the London 2012 Games.

While escorting him out to the enclosure where the entire Indian media contingent was waiting for him, I asked Sushil what he wanted from us for his achievement. To my complete surprise he said the following, “Bhai aap toh Sachin paaji ko bahut achhe se jante ho. Mere se ekbar baat kara doge?” (Brother, you know Sachin very well.

Would I be able to speak to him?). As it happened I dialled Sachin’s number and told him of Sushil’s request. It was hardly surprising that Sachin, who was driving at that point, asked me to hold on, parked his car, and wanted me to hand the phone to Sushil. Thereafter for five straight minutes, all we heard Sushil say was, “Haan ji bhaisaab” and “Thank you bhaisaab.” Having completely forgotten that he had created history just minutes earlier, he was overwhelmed at speaking to his hero. Without a doubt, he had touched a chord with all of us, something that made him far more than a champion wrestler.

The Comeback kid with a winning attitude

One of the few vegetarian wrestlers around, Sushil had taken a break from wrestling at the end of 2013. He did not wrestle for some months leading to speculation if he was indeed past his prime. Then came news of Sushil moving in to the 74 kilogram category making way for Yogeshwar in the newly created 65 kilogram category.

Enough to fuel apprehension if he was still good enough. Being the person he is, Sushil did not do much to stop the speculation from gathering steam. He knew that the best place to answer critics was the wrestling mat. And in Glasgow he did so in style winning India yet another gold medal.

So where does Sushil Kumar go from here? Can he go a step further and strike gold in Rio 2016? Will that be the final fairytale to what has been an incredible career? Make no mistake the Olympics are ten times more difficult than the CWG. You will have the world’s very best trying to win a medal in Rio.

But here again, we are talking about Sushil Kumar who just knows one simple thing- work hard. And harder. And even harder. Ten hours a day at Sonepat or Chattarsal, Sushil will do all he can to add the final missing piece of metal to his trophy cabinet. A bronze in Beijing and a silver in London, can he do one better in Rio and win India’s second individual Olympic gold?

For the love of Wrestling

If you are an Indian sports fan, you can bank on Sushil. For here’s one man who will leave no stone unturned. I remember meeting him just hours after he had returned from winning his first Olympic medal in Beijing. There was mayhem at the airport with the media hounding him for interviews. Having completed all of it, he returned home late at night. For others, it was time to put the feet up after a good week’s work. For Sushil, it wasn’t. For him, it was business as usual at Chattarsal with his many pehelwan friends the next morning. And if you asked him why, he would answer with a smile, “Achha lagta hain bhaisaab. (I like it brother).”

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