When Sushil Kumar pinned his opponent Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu to the floor for a brief moment during the second round of the men’s 66 kg freestyle wrestling event at the London Olympics, a jubilant cheer went up at his residence in Baprola village here.

Until then, everyone -- Sushil Kumar’s parents, his extended family, friends, residents of his village and media persons -- were all anxiously counting down to the gold medal bout. His father, Diwan Singh Solanki, was receiving calls by the minute from well-wishers congratulating him on his son’s success in Sunday morning’s semi-finals.

Outside, more than an hour before the bout, people had gathered to celebrate their village’s favourite pehelwan. Screams of “India mange gold” accompanied with waving of the Tricolour made everyone, even those who had never met or heard of the 29-year-old wrestler, support him in his quest for gold.

“After Sushil’s success, parents will now support their children if they want to take up wrestling,” said Sushil’s cousin, Ajay Kumar, a resident of Gurgaon. “Many children in this village are eager to become wrestlers,” he added, seated in a room that was brightly lit by a chandelier with green tiles on the walls and a television ready to broadcast the event from London.

Minutes before the bout, the women of the household had gathered in that very same room to sing bhajans in support of their “son”. Among them was Sushil’s mother Kamala Devi who braved the sea of media persons to take her perch in the midst of her relatives. She had preferred to stay clear of the television during the morning’s bout and chose to pray for her son instead.

At half past six in the evening, just as people across the country sat in front of their television sets with their eyes peeled, Sushil’s family and friends did the same.

Yet, when the Japanese was declared the winner, uneasiness descended on the room for less that a minute before somebody yelled -- “Give it to Sushil Kumar for bringing India a silver medal!” and the mood turned jubilant once again.

“My heart was beating very fast when I saw him on the television screen,” said Ms. Kamala Devi. “I am very proud of my son and I am waiting for him to come home so we can all celebrate.”

Elsewhere, the Chhatrasal Stadium had been witnessing joyous scenes. First, Yogeshwar Dutt set up the mood by bagging the 60 kg freestyle Olympic bronze medal. A day later Sushil went one step further.

Yogeshwar’s training partner Bajrang Poonia was thrilled. “Yogeshwar always inspires me. I hope to perform like him…I liked the way he rolled the North Korean to win the bronze.”

Pradeep Kumar, the training partner of Sushil, was at a loss for words. “We have been room partners for almost a decade. I feel as if my brother has won a medal,” he said.

Around 100 grapplers belonging to the stadium at Model Town celebrated the success of the two stalwarts from their akhara. The valiant performance of Yogeshwar lifted the spirit of fellow wrestlers who had gathered at the only air-conditioned training hall of the stadium to catch the action ‘live’ on television. The night became longer as the wrestlers distributed sweets and celebrated till 3 a.m. by dancing to the beating of drums.

“The boys are excited. They have asked a DJ to come and there will be celebrations. Normally the police cordons off the area this time ahead of the Independence Day function. However, they have heeded to our request and postponed it,” said Virender Kumar, one of the wrestling coaches at the stadium.


Sushil steers India into a silvery sunsetAugust 13, 2012

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