‘My feats will inspire other wrestlers’

PTI

Sushil Kumar took some time out of his demanding schedule to speak to Sportstar about his career, his future plans and the present state of Indian wrestling. Y. B. Sarangi listens in.

For the last few weeks after returning from London, silver medallist Sushil Kumar, the first ever Indian to win two individual medals in the Olympic Games, has been tirelessly attending felicitation functions in different parts of the country.

Sushil has handled stardom well. However, despite his hectic schedule, the wrestling superstar has not ignored his daily training. After all, his dedication to the sport has given him everything in life.

Sushil speaks to Sportstar about his career, his future plans and the present state of Indian wrestling.

Question: You have been attending a lot of felicitation programmes. In comparison to your success in the Olympics four years ago, this time you have drawn more attention. How do you like this celebrity status?

Answer: It feels good. People are showering so much love and affection on me. It is such a nice feeling.

Do you think that your medal-winning performance will promote wrestling in the country?

Yes. It will boost wrestling. My feats will inspire other wrestlers. The Olympic medals in Beijing and London, the World Championship title etc. will definitely raise the profile of the sport.

The last one year was tough for you. You overcame injury worries and fought hard to qualify for the London Olympics.

Injury is part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life. I always knew that once I recovered from injury, I would start training. If the upper part of my body had some injury problems, then I trained the lower part. If the lower part of the body had an injury issue, then I used to train for the upper part.

How did you stay away from criticism following a few losses?

I do not think about the negative things people say about me. If I keep on performing, then I will win some bouts and lose some. I could have left wrestling after (the) Beijing (Games), since I had gone through a lot of hardships. A sportsperson should think about performing for a long period of time.

What is your next target? How do you plan to go from here?

Shining stars.. Sushil Kumar with Yogeshwar Dutt.-K. PICHUMANI

I will continue to train. We have the Asian Games in two years time. Then in another two years time we have the Rio Olympics. I will set small targets and participate in different competitions.

You are 29 and will grow older. How much of a challenge will it be to stay fit?

Fitness has always been the main focus of my training schedule. I think I can produce results till the age of 35. I will try my best to achieve that target.

What is the motivation for you now?

What I could not do in London, I will try to do in Rio (winning a gold medal in the Olympics). My well-wishers tell me that I have the capability (to win an Olympic gold) and it motivates me.

You have seen Yogeshwar’s rise from very close quarters. What is your feeling about his success in the Olympics?

I am very happy for him. Everybody (associated with wrestling) was waiting for his success for a long time. He deserved it. He did well to win an Olympic medal.

What about the up and coming wrestlers? Should the federation focus on grooming the wrestlers at the grassroots level?

There are a lot of talented wrestlers in our country. If we take care of the wrestlers at the grassroots level, then we can see some good results. Our centre here (the Chhatrasal Stadium), where young wrestlers are trained, is a good example.

How can the proposed Indian Wrestling League (IWL) help the wrestlers?

The IWL will benefit the wrestlers a lot. This kind of top level event will give good exposure to the wrestlers. It will help them improve their performance. The big money will benefit the wrestlers who belong to humble backgrounds. It will provide a platform to improve their lifestyle.

Are you planning to set up your own wrestling academy?

Yes. The Haryana Government has given land, near Sonepat, for this purpose. I will start the academy soon.