In 2008, Sushil Kumar was an underdog when he competed at the Beijing Olympics. Four years later at the London Games, as a world champion and a Commonwealth Games champion, he was a hot favourite to win the men’s 66kg freestyle title.
“What I could not do in Beijing, I will try to do in London,” Sushil had said after his Beijing achievement. And he did not disappoint.
Sushil converted his bronze into silver and achieved the unique record of being the only Indian to land individual medals in consecutive Olympic Games.
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“A lot of people wondered whether we could change the colour of the medal in wrestling. With the blessings and good wishes of the whole country, I am happy that I could do that,” Sushil said after winning the silver medal on the last day of the London Olympics.
Hardships, particularly due to injuries, and expectations in the run-up to the London Games made Sushil’s second medal all the more precious. “Injury is part and parcel of a sportsman’s life. I always thought 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.”
In London, Sushil began his epic performance by defeating Beijing Games gold medallist Ramazan Sahin of Turkey.
“When I fight anyone, I just try to do my best. I do not worry about the record of the opponent. Everyone who comes to the Olympics has to be good and is trying to show his ability to the world. You have to be prepared for anyone. Every situation is different and you have to be alert all the time. The wrestlers are becoming quicker by the day,” said Sushil.
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His semifinal bout against Akzhurek Tanatarov became dramatic due to the bleeding from the Kazakh’s ear. When someone asked whether he bit the Kazakh while fighting back, Sushil was tongue-in-cheek in his reply: “I am a vegetarian.”
A dehydrated Sushil lost to 2011 World Championships silver medallist and 2010 Asian Games gold winner Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan in the final, but not before scripting history.
The celebrity status he gained after his London medal convinced Sushil that his series of historic performances would inspire young Indian wrestlers. “The Olympic medals in Beijing and London and the World Championships title will definitely raise the profile of the sport,” he said.Sushil Kumar may have lost in the 66kg freestyle final in London, but he became the only Indian to land individual medals in consecutive Olympic Games.
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