Yogeshwar Dutt is also known as Yogi. Like a yogi, the 33-year-old wrestler has maintained his focus on attaining excellence in his field, quantified as an Olympic gold medal, and is keen to realise his dream in the Rio Games.
Amidst his busy schedule, Yogeshwar found some time to speak to Sportstar about his quest to achieve his ultimate dream.
Question: What is the significance of the Rio Olympics to you and what gives you the motivation to prepare for it? What is the difference between your approach to the London Games and the Rio Games?
Answer: My focus is on winning the gold medal. Everything else is immaterial for me at this point of time. For the last four years I have worked hard single-mindedly. Before London, I had not won an Olympics medal. So, I was keen to win one. However, after winning an Olympic medal (bronze), I was not satisfied. I wanted to win the gold medal and started my work for this.
What is so special about the gold medal? Why do you strive for it?
I do not know, but I am certain that I want the Olympic gold medal. That is my ultimate ambition and biggest motivation as I approach the Rio Games. I can share the feeling of winning a gold medal only after achieving that.
The run-up to the Rio Olympics was not smooth. You battled an injury, tough opponents etc. How did you fight against the odds?
The injury was the biggest obstacle. But I kept working hard, kept my whole focus on getting well as soon as possible and getting back to full training. I had to battle an injury, had three operations on my left knee within a period of 15 months, but I worked very hard for a fast recovery and achieved it. Even when I was injured I did not give up my training. When I could not move my legs, I did my upper body exercise. I continued to do meditation and yoga. I avoided so many things such as going out, mixing with people, getting engaged in phone calls etc.
You look more relaxed and fitter than ever. What is the reason behind this?
This is because I took care of myself in order to have the best chance in Rio. I did a lot of training, changed my diet and took care to maintain my power and stamina. I did all sorts of training, including cross country, gym sessions apart from mat sessions, to keep myself fit and in the best of form ahead of the Olympics.
Whenever you suffer from an injury, you come back stronger to win big medals. It happened four years ago during the London Olympics. So, are you encouraged because of the coincidence this time?
It is true that every time I came out of an injury, I won something big — be it the 2006 Asian Games bronze medal or the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold or the 2012 Asian championship gold and Olympic medal or the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games gold medals. If God has given me injuries, then he has rewarded me with medals as well. I have fought with more determination and proved myself. This time too, I am coming out of an injury prior to the Olympics.
So many talented wrestlers come up every year and with the help of technology everybody around the world knows about your strengths and weaknesses. How tough is it to keep oneself updated and relevant over the years?
It is very important to stay updated about the changes. When rule changes happen, you have to adjust yourself. Also, watching video clips of different wrestlers and their techniques and training on the mat is an essential part of the training process.
You have to train well on the mat to execute and perfect your plans. The better you are during practice, the better you perform in competitions.
How do you handle the pressure of expectation, especially when the whole country is expecting a medal from an accomplished wrestler like you?
I agree that the pressure of expectation is always there, but one has to learn to deal with it. I take it very positively and feel good that so many people from my country want me to do well. It gives me a lot of enthusiasm and spurs me to do well. It is important how you take pressure. When you take it with a positive frame of mind, it rewards you.
Did the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav feud affect the Olympic-bound wrestlers in the National camp? How did you people come out of it?
Prior to the Olympics, everybody focusses on his practice. It was a bit of a distraction, especially for Narsingh. Ultimately, it was the Federation’s decision which got settled in the court. Everybody is now focussed on the job in hand.
Was it good for you that the feud kept you away from the limelight and helped you focus on your training?
It is not like that. I never strive for media attention or do I get distracted with what is happening around me. I just keep my focus on my training and my goal. So it hardly made any difference to me.
This time India is sending its biggest ever wrestling squad to the Olympics. How many wrestling medals do you expect from Rio?
In 2004, we had seven wrestlers in the Olympics and this time we have eight. For the first time, two Greco-Roman and three women have qualified. Accordingly, we should increase our medal tally. In the last Olympics we had two wrestling medals, this time we should win four, including one gold medal.
Is this going to be your last Olympics?
I don’t know. Right now my whole focus is on Rio. The next Olympics is far away and there is a lot of time left for that. Also, it depends on my fitness level. So, I cannot say whether this will be my last Olympics.
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