Sushil Kumar: I will not let myself be sold

"An athlete nurtures the dream of playing for the country and when he faces the situation when he is sold to someone, it is an awkward thing. It sounds very strange to me when I hear about an athlete’s auction," says the champion wrestler.

Sushil Kumar... "My whole life revolves around wrestling."   -  Sushil Kumar Verma

Two-time Olympic medallist and former World champion wrestler Sushil Kumar is a path-breaker in more ways than one. When the whole wrestling fraternity in the country and many from around the world are excited about the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) and the money associated with it, the 32-year-old Sushil has preferred to stay away from the razzmatazz and focus on his target of doing well in the Olympics.

The situation this time is different though. Since Narsingh Yadav has already booked an Olympic berth for the country in the 74kg freestyle category, Sushil, competing in the same weight, may have to fight with Narsingh in a trial match in order to board the flight to Rio. That makes the topic more interesting.

His last-minute pull-out from the PWL in order to save himself from any possible injury ahead of the Olympics has taken away some gloss off the ambitious league and triggered another debate.

Amidst all this, Sushil took time out of his busy schedule to speak to Sportstar about his primary goal, his reservations against being ‘auctioned’ and his future.

Excerpts from the interview:

On his training in Georgia: It was a good exposure. Currently I am doing my training keeping the Olympics in mind. I worked on my technique and tactics. I went there with my team. Got some good training partners over there and trained with some fine wrestlers from that country. It was a 20-day programme. Our foreign coach (Vladimir) also helped a lot in arranging the programme.

On the change in mindset in approaching the Olympics over the years: This will be my fourth Olympics. When I had participated in the Olympics in 2004, people outside the wrestling circles had no idea (about me), but those who were associated with wrestling knew that I had the capability to win a medal. Somehow I could not win a medal in Athens. In Beijing I could do it. I have been preparing well and focused on my ‘tapasya.’ I do not let my mind to get affected by any distractions and the focus is on doing well in the 2016 Olympics. I still give my 100 per cent in training.

On his possible selection trial with Narsingh to decide who represents India in 74kg freestyle in the Rio Olympics: I congratulate Narsingh for qualifying for the Olympics in the first round (World Championship) itself. It is a big thing for our country because now we don’t have to fight for a ticket (to the Olympics) in that weight. The trial will be in the country. Whosoever does well will go to the Olympics. I also wish that I should go to the Olympics only if I do well. I do not want to spoil someone else’s chance and put pressure (to include me). I just want to do well for the country.

On his plans to participate in competitions in the run-up to the Olympics: Of course, I will take part in a few competitions. I will discus my plans with the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) to participate in two events before the Olympics. The WFI will take a decision on that.

 

On the status of his injury: I am taking care not to aggravate my injury. It is much better now. The main target is the Olympics and my guruji (Satpal) is guiding me and planning everything related to this.

On his reluctance to take part in the Pro Wrestling League: An injury in a tournament can hamper my chances of participating in the Olympics. In 2012, I had picked up a shoulder injury in a tournament and had to suffer a lot because of that. The injury was there even one month prior to the Olympics.

On wrestlers being auctioned for PWL (Sushil did not sign a contract despite being picked by UP Warriors): I had said that I would not be a part of any auction. I will not let myself to be sold. I had made it very clear... I am an athlete and athletes cannot be sold. I have performed for the country and will continue to do so. An athlete nurtures the dream of playing for the country and when he faces the situation when he is sold to someone, it is an awkward thing. It sounds very strange to me when I hear about an athlete’s auction.

On what PWL means for Indian wrestlers: It will help our junior wrestlers a lot. They will get good exposure and can benefit from that.

On his life after Rio Olympics: I am not going to leave wrestling just like that.

On wrestling’s place in his life: I have done wrestling from my childhood. People know me because of wrestling. My whole life revolves around wrestling. I have never thought about anything other than this.

On the impact of Sportstar: I thank Sportstar for supporting the athletes and bringing out nice write-ups about them.