x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 July 2017

Olympics: Wrestler says he has the mettle to end Indian struggles

The world's second biggest country has yet to win a gold at London 2012, but wrestler Sushil Kumar hopes to change that.

Sushil Kumar won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and took the world title in 66kg freestyle in 2010 at Moscow.
Sushil Kumar won a bronze at the 2008 Beijing Games and took the world title in 66kg freestyle in 2010 at Moscow.

Sushil Kumar has already carried India's flag at the London Olympics and the wrestler now carries his country's hopes of an elusive gold medal.

Abhinav Bindra, the Beijing shooting champion and India's first individual gold medallist, crashed out in the first round in London while the boxer Mary Kom took bronze on Wednesday to add to the one won in badminton by Saina Nehwal.

Now the spotlight falls on Sushil, a Beijing bronze medallist and the 2010 world champion, as he aims for gold in the men's 66kg freestyle wrestling class on Sunday.

"In my category, there are few wrestlers with whom I have not wrestled so far," the 29 year old said.

"But this is the Olympics. You will have to be prepared for anything. People back home have lot of expectation not only from me but from other wrestlers as well. This is a very good sign.

"You will not find the Indian wrestlers wanting in the ring. We are determined to give our best."

The son of a bus driver, who was himself a wrestler, Sushil was inspired to take up the sport by his cousin Sandeep.

However, Sandeep quit wrestling because the family could support just the one wrestler and it was a decision that went on to be rewarded with bronze in Beijing, the world championship gold in Moscow and a Commonwealth Games gold medal on home soil in Delhi two years ago.

And Virender Kumar, the coach at the wrestling centre where Sushil started his career, has high hopes for both him and India's Yogeshwar Dutt, competing in the 60kg freestyle.

"We expect both Sushil and Yogeshwar to get gold because both of them are very good," Virender told The Hindu. "Sushil had some problems with his shoulder during the qualifying events but, at present, he is in the best of form.

"I think he is the front-runner for the gold. I am sure he will turn the bronze into gold."

Whether Sushil does stand atop the podium in London, or not, he has already had a huge effect on wrestling, a sport with deep roots in India.

"I want to become a wrestler like Sushil Kumar and represent India at the Olympics," said Sheetal Gulia, a 13-year-old wrestler at the Wrestling Centre at Chhatrasal Stadium in New Delhi.

"It's a matter of pride for me that I am training at the centre where Sushil has been trained."

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