They are all praise for three of their fellow wrestlers who are part of a squad of five representing the country
“I want to become a wrestler like Sushil Kumar and represent India at the Olympics,” says Sheetal Gulia, a 13-year-old wrestler at the Wrestling Centre at Chhatrasal Stadium here, adding, “It’s a matter of pride for me that I am training at the centre where Sushil has been trained.”
Gulia, who is a resident of Jatkheda village in Jhajjar district of Haryana, is not alone but one of hundreds of wrestlers at the wrestling centre who are brimming with hope and enthusiasm two days before the beginning of free-style wrestling at the London Olympics.
They are all praise for three of their fellow wrestlers who are part of a squad of five representing the country. They are quite hopeful that they would add a few medals to the country’s kitty. The team includes Sushil Kumar, who won the bronze at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, Yogeshwar Dutt, the two-time Asian champion, and Amit Kumar, who won the gold at the Asian qualifying event in Astana to make it to the Olympics.
Coach Virender Kumar at the wrestling centre expects no less than two gold medals -- one each from Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt. “We expect both Sushil and Yogeshwar to get gold because both of them are very good. They have sufficient world-class experience. They have participated in three Olympics.”
Sushil had some problems with his shoulder during the qualifying events,” said the coach, adding, “but at present he is in the best of forms. I think he is the frontrunner for the gold. He had told us before leaving that he will change the colour of his medal during this Olympics. I am sure he will turn the bronze into gold.”
But Mr. Kumar, who along with two other coaches trains a large number of wrestlers, is also aware of the tough competition, especially from players of Ukraine, Russia, Iran and Japan. He sees a fair competition for Sushil from defending champion Sahin Ramazan of Turkey, Mehdi Tagari of Iran and silver medallist Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan.
Bajrang Punia, who won a silver medal in the junior-level category at the Asian Championship 2012, is another of Sushil’s admirers. “Given Sushil’s form, I am sure he will bring the gold this time. It is also good for the game because the government will also promote the traditional sport in a much better way than what it is doing at present,” he hopes.
Mr. Kumar attributes this “craze” to Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. “The year 2008 was a watershed moment for wrestling and the credit goes to Sushil’s bronze. After 2008, the Government started taking care of the game and the players. The situation is much better now.”
The coach is also hopeful of a “good” performance from Amit Kumar. “Amit will be taking part in Olympics for the first time. I will be very happy if he comes up with a medal because Olympic medals have their own importance.”