Set to scale greater heights

Champion returns... Sushil Kumar, who won the World title in Moscow, is given a warm welcome by his fans on arrival at the Indira Gandhi International airport in New Delhi.-PTI

With the success in Moscow, Sushil Kumar became the first Indian to win a World Championship gold. It also meant that he became the first Indian to win a medal each in the Olympics and the World Championship. By Y. B. Sarangi.

“Just watch how he is mobbed by the fans. But still, when he reaches home, he will find time to train tomorrow. That makes Sushil Kumar what he is,” says the veteran wrestler, Kripa Shankar, who is part of the huge crowd ready to greet Sushil Kumar, who arrives at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi in the wee hours of September 14 after winning the World Championship in Moscow.

Since claiming the World cadet gold in 1998, Sushil's progress has been steady, thanks to his daily training the last 15 years. There is no doubt that he is close to the peak of his career now. The bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics (the second by an Indian wrestler), three successive Commonwealth Championship titles (London 2003, Cape Town 2005 and London 2007), the Asian Championship gold medals (2003 and 2008) and the World Championship title this year are proof of the upward swing in his performance in recent years.

With his Moscow feat, Sushil became the first Indian to win a World Championship gold medal (his previous best in the event was when he finished fourth in New York in 2003). Earlier, Bishamber Singh's silver in 1967 was the best-ever performance by an Indian in the elite event.

The World title also meant another first for Sushil: he became the first Indian to win a medal each in the Olympics and the World Championship.

Months ago, Sushil had expressed his keenness to add a World title to kitty. “I know the event is very close to the Commonwealth Games, but it is too important to miss,” he had said.

The run-up to the World Championship, however, wasn't smooth for Sushil. In the 2009 Asian Championship in Pattaya, he was slightly overweight and was later censured by the Union Sports Ministry. However, Sushil responded in a befitting manner by emerging the Asian champion this year.

“Last time, I was overweight by just 400 gms and was pulled up. I have moved ahead since,” he had said.

Known for his humility, Sushil knows how to answer back politely and yet effectively. During a photo shoot soon after his return from Moscow, when his mentor Satpal was humiliated by the Union Sports Minister M. S. Gill, Sushil expressed his displeasure in clear terms. “I am hurt by the insult to my guru,” he said. He was polite, but the message was a firm one.

Wrestling is a passion for this humble man from Najafgarh, a rustic district in west Delhi made famous by Virender Sehwag. Incidentally, the Indian opening batsman had praised Sushil for his “excellent deeds” in international wrestling. If Sehwag prides in his massive following in Najafgarh, so does Sushil.

The Commonwealth Games now beckons the ace wrestler, who is set to scale greater heights.

“I will try my best,” promises Sushil as he takes leave to report for the National training camp in Sonepat.