Tribune News Service
New Delhi, July 17
Two-time Olympics medallist Sushil Kumar has been credited with bringing back the focus on Indian wrestling, along with his friend Yogeshwar Dutt, also an Olympics medallist.
Sushil has won practically everything the sport offers, barring Olympics and Asian Games gold medals. But as has been the case for many of our athletes, administrative and selection issues could well have ended Sushil’s wrestling career much before it took off. As a 19-year-old, Sushil won a trial to earn the right to represent India at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games. But instead of him, Shokinder Tomar was selected to represent India in the 60kg weight category at the CWG.
The CWG had suddenly become important as the then sports minister, Uma Bharti, had announced that the government would dole out cash prizes — Rs 20 lakh for gold, Rs 15 for silver and Rs 10 lakh for bronze — to the medallists. On finding out that his name had been struck off, Sushil and his guru Satpal knocked on the office of the sports minister and the Wrestling Federation of India, to make a last-ditch effort to reclaim his place on the team. But he failed.
“I cried when my name was withdrawn. You should remember I was from a lower income family and winning the cash prize would have solved a lot of problems,” Sushil said during a webinar organised by a university.
“When I was replaced, I decided to quit mat wrestling and concentrate more on dangals as a means to earn a livelihood. But a former wrestler, Uday Chand-ji, told me not to lose heart and said: ‘You don’t know, you may get bigger chances to perform than this one’. Thankfully, I listened to him and continued. I always share this story with my near and dear ones,” Sushil added.
‘Offered money in 2010’
The 37-year-old also came clean about the controversial offer he got to deliberately lose his 2010 World Championships final bout against Russia’s Alan Gogaev in Moscow. “My coaches Yashvir (late Yashvir Singh) and Georgian coach (Vladimir Mestvirishvili) were approached and they dealt with it,” Sushil recalled. “I was never told about it. I came to know much later. Don’t even know how much money was offered!”
Sushil won the final for his first and only World Championships medal.
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