Good, could have been better

Gold winner Sushil Kumar (red) pins down Heinrich Barnes in the 66 kg freestyle final.

Overall, the home grapplers landed 19 medals — 10 golds, five silvers and four bronzes. In this, the contribution of the Greco Roman and women wrestlers has to be commended. Over to Y. B. Sarangi.

It may not have been up to expectations, but the Indian wrestlers' haul of 10 golds in the Commonwealth Games hugely boosted the home side's position in the medals tally. Quite understandably, everybody had wished a better showing for the country in the overall medals tally in comparison to the Melbourne Games where wrestling was not a part of the programme. The addition of wrestling in the Delhi Games was seen as an attempt to boost the medal collection of the host.

Overall, the home grapplers landed 19 medals, including five silvers and four bronzes. In this, the contribution of the Greco Roman and women wrestlers cannot be underestimated. The two formats were included for the first time in the history of the Games as the sport made a return after a gap of eight years.

The Greco Roman wrestlers claimed four golds, one silver and two bronzes, while the women chipped in with three golds, two silvers and a bronze. In freestyle, considered to be India's stronghold in the Commonwealth region, the home wrestlers managed only three gold medals, two silvers and a bronze.

Looking back at the Commonwealth Championship held in Jalandhar in December last year, India's performance there (16 golds) was much better in terms of medals achieved. However, there was no denying that the level of competition was lower with a lesser number of teams participating.

Even then, India's achievement cannot be said to be satisfactory. A little more focus and a little more common sense from the wrestlers could have given five more gold medals (two each in Greco Roman and freestyle and one in women).

Nevertheless, the women, who faced the toughest competition, won the hearts of the fans by rising to the occasion. They showed how well-prepared they were as they took on strong teams like Canada and Nigeria and emerged successful.

Alka Tomar tamed two-time Olympic medallist Tonya Verbeek of Canada ‘by fall' in the 59 kg final to show her class and confidence. “This was the best fight of my life. I was prepared for this kind of challenge since I knew that the Canadian wrestlers would pose problems for us,” Alka said after her glorious victory.

“This has given a lot of confidence. After beating an Olympic medallist, I now have the confidence that I can get a medal in the Olympics too,” said Alka, who has won laurels in the World Championship, the Asian Championship, the Asian Games, the Commonwealth Games and the Commonwealth Championship.

Geeta (55 kg) and Anita (67 kg) are stars in the making. They have the skill, the firepower and the zeal to do it and they also rose to the top of the podium with sheer grit and determination.

Geeta's younger sister Babita (51 kg), however, could not do justice to her talent and had to settle for silver.

World champion and Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar (66 kg) was the toast of the crowd at the K.D. Jadhav Stadium. Everyone raved about his astounding skills. When he won the semifinal bout in just nine seconds and overpowered his South African opponent Heinrich Barnes in the final with ruthlessness, the spectators were ecstatic. Those who saw the gold medal bout would always cherish the moments of seeing a true ‘superhero' in action. Sushil described his achievement before the home crowd as a memorable experience.

Yogeshwar Dutt (60 kg), who overcame a career-threatening knee injury, and Narsingh Pancham Yadav (74 kg), who came in as a last-minute replacement, had the challenge of reasserting their supremacy and they did it in style.

The talented Anil Kumar (55 kg), who got a bronze, and the experienced Anuj Kumar (84 kg), who bagged a silver, had to blame themselves for not delivering results matching their potential.

The Greco Roman wrestlers started with a bang but ended with a whimper. Ravinder Singh (60 kg), Sanjay (74 kg) and Anil Kumar (96 kg) sparked celebrations in the home camp by sweeping the gold medals on the first day of the competition. However, the tempo could not be kept up as Sunil Kumar (66 kg), Manoj Kumar (84 kg) and Dharmender Dalal (120 kg) met their match. Rajender Kumar (55 kg), however, lived up to his reputation to corner glory.

Among other teams, Australia and 2012 Olympics host England, both loaded with ‘imported' athletes, played spoilsport for India. Pakistan surprised all by claiming two freestyle golds, while the Nigerians made their presence felt by having men on the podium.