Yandro Quintana, the Cuban Olympic champion in 60kg freestyle weight class at the 2004 Athens Olympics, notices a growth and improvement in Indian wrestling and thinks the country may collect more wrestling medals in Paris 2024.
Quintana, also a two-time World Championships silver medallist and a four-time Pan American champion, said Indian wrestling changed a lot from the time when he was active.
“There is a lot of difference. When I wrestled, it (Indian wrestling) was very small. Now, there are several good athletes at the elite level and they are winning international medals. I have been staying in India for the last three-four years. Wrestling has changed so much,” Quintana told Sportstar on the sidelines of the ongoing National Championships here.
Quintana, who has been working as the women’s head coach at JSW’s Inspire Institute of Sport in Vijayanagar, has seen a bit of Indian wrestling to make an assessment. “Now, India is having many competitions. That’s why the level is coming up. But the wrestlers have to compete not just inside but outside (the country), because there are many good wrestlers in other countries. I think exposure to wrestlers from other countries will help a lot.
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“This country is big and has so many talents. If India continues the good work, then there is a 100 percent chance that good results will come. Not just one or two, but Indian wrestlers will win more medals, possibly three or four, in the (Paris) Olympics.
“This group, Bajrang (Punia), Ravi (Dahiya), Deepak (Punia), Antim (Panghal) and Vinesh (Phogat), is very good. They have made good progress.”
Looking back at his own achievement in Athens, 42-year-old Quintana said, “I can never forget this moment in my life. For any athlete, that one medal is very important. Being an Olympic champion is a story for life. I remember every second, every minute. This moment was very beautiful, very important in my life. I prepared for eight years, actually all my life I prepared. I started wrestling when I was six years old and became an Olympic champion in 2004. Imagine, I trained for 23 years to be an Olympic champion. This was a super moment. It is not possible to explain.
“I fought with Sushil Kumar at that time. I won the bout. I was well prepared – full of confidence, I knew for sure I would go for the gold medal, 100 percent. When I closed my eyes, I saw I was winning the gold medal… I focused only on my game. When I went for my bout, I only thought about winning. I thought this is my competition, this is my match.”
As a coach, Quintana, not someone who imposes his ideas on his students, is popular among his trainees. “If the coach is clever and understands the system, then he will speak to every athlete and explain. All the wrestlers have different styles of wrestling. It is not possible that everybody will follow the same style,” said Quintana.