WRESTLING / Fans throng the airport to congratulate the duo

It was a momentous occasion for Indian wrestling and the fans did their best to make it memorable.

The homecoming of Olympic silver medallist Sushil Kumar and bronze winner Yogeshwar Dutt from London triggered massive celebrations at the Indira Gandhi International airport as the duo landed here on Monday night.

The celebratory atmosphere often threatened to become chaotic as a fairly sizeable crowd, including family members and friends of the two, exulted over the wrestlers’ feats.

Festive atmosphere

With the crowd dancing to a constant stream of music and drum beats, waving the tricolour, there was a festive atmosphere at the airport.

A garland in every hand, besides three massive ones, spoke a lot about the emotions of the fans who wanted to congratulate their heroes in person despite the chaos and the late night arrival.

The ground shook as two troupes of drummers produced ear-splitting sounds as a music band played tunes ceaselessly to declare the importance of the occasion.

“Some 400 people have come from our village (Bhainswal Kalan, 20km from Sonepat) to welcome Yogeshwar,” said Mukesh, brother of the bronze medallist. However, the fan following of two-time Olympic medallist Sushil was unmatched.

Several big banners, featuring slogans — Bharat maa ko Sushil ka anmol tohfa (Sushil’s gift to Mother India), Sushil hai hamara Kohinoor, Iss par hai Bharat ko gurur (Sushil is our Kohinoor, India is proud of him), Bharat ki shaan, Sushil pehelwan (Wrestler Sushil is India’s pride) — hailed Sushil’s huge achievement even as a truck wrapped in posters stood ready to take him in a procession.

Carried on shoulders

More than hundred wrestlers from the Chhatrasal Stadium, the akhara of Sushil and Yogeshwar, patiently waited for their idols to emerge from the exit gate and then chaired the two on their shoulders.

“It is a big moment for us. Had the Independence Day not been ahead, they would have first visited the stadium as a mark of respect to the akhara,” said Virender Kumar, one of the coaches from the stadium.

The Indian wrestling contingent was proud of the grapplers’ showing in the London Olympics.

“I had faith in the wrestlers and I had predicted two medals before leaving. I am also happy with Amit’s performance.

“He is young and can do wonders in the future,” said National coach Vinod Kumar.

Yashvir, the other coach of the team, was satisfied with the overall showing.

“It was a fine performance. We achieved our target of winning two medals. Yogeshwar really earned the bronze and Sushil was no less.”

Amit confident

Eighteen-year-old Amit Kumar, despite failing to make a mark in the 55kg repechage round, was eager to prove himself on the biggest stage.

“After this experience, I feel more confident. I feel that I can give a tough fight to any top wrestler in the world.”

The youngster was inspired by witnessing the kind of reception that Sushil and Yogeshwar received.

“I feel I should also win medals and get welcomed in such a fashion,” he said.

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