World champion wrestler Sushil Kumar was accorded a hero's welcome by hundreds of supporters on his arrival from Moscow in the early hours of Tuesday.
Sushil was on a whirlwind tour of the city, hopping from one felicitation function to the other on Tuesday, but seemed to enjoy it. Not many can even hope to become a World champion.
“It is a special feeling to be a World champion, it is the ultimate,” said Sushil.
Asked by enthusiasts about the toughness of the competition, Sushil, in a lighter vein, said, “It was the World championship, everybody was well prepared. You can imagine (the toughness of the competition) from my injuries.”
Slice of luck
One cannot undermine Sushil's supreme talent and sheer dedication. However, there was no doubt that Beijing Olympic gold medallist Ramazan Sahin (Turkey) and silver medallist Andriy Stadnik (Ukraine) being clubbed in the other half of the draw eased Sushil's path in the World championship.
Sushil's personal coach Yashvir, who accompanied him to Moscow, admitted that his ward enjoyed a slice of luck in the form of a favourable draw.
The Beijing Olympic bronze medallist, however, had a different view. “All the wrestlers were equally good and everybody had worked hard for the event,” Sushil said.
The 66-kg freestyle champion said his next aim was the Commonwealth Games and 2012 London Olympics gold medals.
Sushil's arrival was an occasion to celebrate for the people of his village Bapraula and its surrounding areas (in the Najafgarh locality here). Fans, young and old, wrestlers, federation officials and local politicians gathered in hundreds at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in the wee hours of Tuesday to catch a glimpse of their real-life hero.
Amidst the beating of drums, tireless dancing and bursting of crackers, they waved the national tri-colour and flashed placards to add to the festive mood.
Wearing an ear-to-ear smile, Sushil's mother Kamla Devi proudly described how her whole village got together to watch his son's final bout in Moscow on the internet.
His brother Amarjit said the magnitude of the celebration would be bigger in his village. “Around 1000 people are expected to gather for a function there,” he said.
The airport authorities let the fans enter the arrival lounge and wait for the World champion.
Sushil found it difficult to reach the exit gate as the fans and cameramen jostled to get closer to him. Later, sitting on the shoulders of the buoyant supporters, he waved at the large gathering.
In the mad rush, the disappointed lot was the bunch of old men and women who, with garlands in their hands, were left as mere onlookers.
Veteran wrestler Kripa Shankar, who has attended many National camps with the World champion, said Sushil's sheer dedication had borne fruit.
“He is mad about wrestling. No matter how much tied up he is, he never skips training,” said Kripa Shankar.
Narsingh Yadav, who fought in the 74-kg category in the World championship, said Sushil knew how to win.
“Obviously, the pressure of the final (against Russian Alan Gogaev) was there. We could only cheer him, but he had to perform.
“Even the Russian crowd applauded Sushil for his superior skills,” Yadav said.
As Sushil was taken out in a procession in an open jeep, which reminded one of the cavalcade after his Olympic bronze-winning feat, coach Yashvir flaunted the World title holder's recently-acquired possessions — the gold medal and the World championship belt.
“His focused approach made it possible. Our target was the World championship.
“This training will help in the Commonwealth Games as well,” said Yashvir.