SUSHIL KUMAR

Silver: Wrestling, 66 kg men’s freestyle; London 2012 and Bronze: Wrestling, 66 kg men’s freestyle; Beijing, 2008.

Sushil Kumar... Silver in Wrestling, 66 kg men’s freestyle; London 2012 and Bronze in Wrestling, 66 kg men’s freestyle; Beijing, 2008.   -  PTI

His dream of completing a hat-trick of Olympic medals may have been shattered even before the start of the 2016 Rio Olympics, but Sushil Kumar’s place in the Indian sport hall of fame is secure. He is the only Indian to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals.

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After returning empty-handed from his first Olympics, in Athens in 2004, Sushil made amends four years later in Beijing, as he became the first Indian wrestler to win a medal in over half-a-century. His campaign had begun on the wrong foot though, losing in the opening round to Ukraine’s Andriy Stadnik, who would go on to win the silver medal. The strong man from the little-known village of Baprola (Delhi), however, came back in style with victories over American Doug Schwab and Belarusian Albert Batyrov in the repechage rounds. Then in the bronze medal match, he floored Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan.

He upgraded the colour of his medal to silver four years later, by winning his semi-final encounter against Kazakhstan’s Akzhurek Tanatarov, who then alleged that the Indian had done a ‘Mike Tyson’ to him. Sushil denied biting Tanatarov’s ear, saying, “I am a vegetarian.”

During a lunch with this correspondent a couple of years ago in Kozhikode, Sushil had said he was determined to win the gold in Rio. That, however, is not possible since he had failed to earn an Olympic berth.