India pins hope on Sushil, Yogeshwar

S. SUBRAMANIUM

Sushil and Yogeshwar are ready to compete in their third consecutive Olympics. Understandably, they are the best medal prospects for India. By Y. B. Sarangi.

Four years ago, when Sushil Kumar won the ‘unexpected’ bronze in the Beijing Olympics, some termed it as a ‘lucky medal.’

They were obviously referring to Sushil’s entry into the 66kg repechage round. Sadly, they conveniently forgot that he had bagged the medal within the rules of the sport and only after winning three strenuous bouts —including those against a quarterfinalist and a semifinalist — in his category.

Two years later, the unassuming Sushil replied his critics in a befitting manner. He became the Asian champion, the World champion and the Commonwealth Games champion in the same year to dismiss all suspicions about his class.

Now, there is hardly any doubt about Sushil’s capabilities as he is all set to compete in the London Games. The coaches, who have been associated with him for a long time, know Sunil’s calibre. There is no doubt that he is of one of the illustrious wrestlers India has produced.

Yogeshwar Dutt (above) and Sushil Kumar (top)... raring to go.-SANDEEP SAXENA

Yogeshwar Dutt, a two-time Asian champion and a Commonwealth Games gold medallist, too has a bright chance in London. A medal hope in Beijing, Yogeshwar lost in the dying seconds of a 60kg quarterfinal bout. He had to be satisfied with a ninth-place finish.

Two long lay-offs due to injuries might have hampered his career, but Yogeshwar has emerged triumphant and proved his efficiency at the highest level.

Yogeshwar’s desire for an Olympic medal has kept him motivated. He loves the pressure. “There is pressure all the time, irrespective of it being a small competition or the Olympics. The pressure is good and it helps you to win.” Twenty-nine-year-olds, Sushil and Yogeshwar, are good friends and are ready to compete in their third consecutive Olympics. Understandably, they are the best medal prospects for the country. “They have grown in confidence over the years. In their third Olympics, they will benefit from their experience of over a decade,” said Yashvir Singh, a coach of the Indian team.

Commonwealth Games winner Narsingh Yadav (74kg) and young Amit Kumar (55kg) complete the men’s freestyle line-up for India.

Geeta Phogat (55kg) is the fifth London-bound wrestler. Like M.C. Mary Kom in boxing, Geeta is the first Indian woman wrestler to book a berth for the Olympics. However, the comparison ends there.

Mary Kom is a five-time World champion, while Geeta’s highest achievement so far is Commonwealth Games gold medal at home. That title, nevertheless, spurs the 23-year-old on. “Winning in front of the homecrowd was a big motivation. This kind of victory propels one to do better things,” said Geeta.

Motivated by her father Mahabir Singh, Geeta has put in maximum effort to try and make her trip to the Olympics a memorable one. “I have worked on my physical fitness and I am trying to improve my speed,” said Geeta.

The real challenge will be to give one’s best at the highest sporting platform in the world.