Two wrestlers who had settled for silver medals eight years ago in the Manchester Commonwealth Games are geared up to win the gold in front of the home crowd.

Then, they were 20-year-old young athletes, bubbling with energy. Now, they have the treasure of experience which they have acquired over the years through toil and hardship.

“I actually feel much younger now. The experience and maturity I have earned so far through wide exposure makes me more formidable for my opponents,” Anuj Kumar, an 84kg freestyle wrestler, told The Hindu on Wednesday as the men's wrestling team arrived at the Games Village here.

“Only youthful exuberance does not work. You have to be a good, skilful fighter to win a bout,” added Anuj, an Arjuna award winner in 2005.

A multiple Asian and Commonwealth championship medallist, Anuj has left behind a rough patch in his career and moved ahead. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) had suspended him for one year for indiscipline. However, a determined Anuj came back to win the National title in Gonda (Uttar Pradesh) in 2008 and added an Asian championship bronze the next year.

“I never got distracted by that episode and kept training hard,” Anuj said.

Confident

Now, he is confident that his hard work of two years would bring him glory. “I have been training for eight to 10 hours a day for the Commonwealth Games. My preparation has been very good from every aspect,” said the 30-year-old cop from Uttar Pradesh.

Anil Mann (96kg) was another man who would like to better the colour of his medal in the Games. He came in as a replacement for Mausam Khatri, who tested positive for a banned substance and was excluded from the Indian team.

“I was very happy when I got the news of my inclusion. We always wrestle abroad, but now I am excited to fight before our home crowd in a big event,” said Mann.

“I am keen to the gold medal this time and I will surely give my best towards achieving that,” said Mann, a former junior World and Asian champion.

For 30-year-old Mann, who had been chosen the best wrestler in the 2007 Commonwealth championship, has done his homework well. “We watch the videos of our prospective rivals and keep meeting them in different international championships. So, I have got a fair idea about the competition I am likely to get on the way to my goal,” said the Railways employee.

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