Sushil Kumar's 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal: A miracle at the crunch moment

No one outside the wrestling fraternity really gave the Indian grapplers a chance to win a medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but Sushil Kumar was quietly confident.

“Of the three bouts in repechage, the third one against Leonid Spiridonov (of Kazakhstan) was the toughest. I had beaten him once in the past, so I was confident,” says Sushil Kumar.   -  Reuters

“It was unbelievable. I have seen the national flag go up at various international competitions, but this time it was very, very special. I was so happy... I knew I had achieved something that would make my countrymen very proud. But I did not know the magnitude of it.”

That was how wrestler Sushil Kumar summed up his emotions after landing a bronze medal in the men’s freestyle 66kg category at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

It was India’s second wrestling medal at the Olympics and the first one since K. D. Jadhav’s feat in Helsinki in 1952.

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No one outside the wrestling fraternity really gave the Indian grapplers a chance to win a medal in the Chinese capital. But Sushil, who had finished 14th at the 2004 Athens Olympics, was quietly confident and performed a miracle at the crunch moment.

“Of the three bouts in repechage, the third one against Leonid Spiridonov (of Kazakhstan) was the toughest. I had beaten him once in the past, so I was confident. At one stage he appeared to hold the advantage and was almost winning. Had he managed to bring me down after getting a firm grip on my leg, it would have clearly fetched him a medal. But during the final moments I could score one technical point. It was almost like snatching away his medal.” Sushil feels his mentor Satpal’s guidance not to send wrestlers much in advance helped them in having home-cooked food for a few more days and retaining strength.

READ | Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on his 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medal: In the zone

“With the grace of god, I could manage to keep my energy level high on the day of the competition. If we had left as per our earlier schedule, I don’t think the medal would have been possible,” he said.

The fans’ reaction to his success surprised Sushil. “Since the moment I won the medal, wrestling fans from America, Russia, Canada and I don’t know from how many more countries have contacted me and asked me to visit their cities. Everyone has been promising grand welcomes and rewards.

I know they are excited for what I have done in the sport they all love the most. I told them I cannot promise anything, but will surely visit them when I get an opportunity,” said Sushil.

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