They had a good three-week high-altitude training in the US
The London Olympics is knocking on the doors. And the Indian wrestlers are ready for the challenge.
At the send-off organised by the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) here on Tuesday, the grapplers, led by Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Sushil Kumar, took pride in their hard work in the run-up to the Games and appeared keen to showcase their skill and courage in London.
The five Olympic-bound wrestlers, including the only woman Geeta Phogat, recently returned from a three-week high-altitude training stint from the US and were pleased with their experience.
“Our training has been good. The coaches had planned everything well in advance. In the US, we trained with some top wrestlers of the world and it was good exposure. We worked on fine-tuning the technical aspects apart from increasing stamina,” said Sushil.
“What I could not do in Beijing, I will try to do in London,” said Sushil, referring to his aim for an Olympics gold medal in his pet 66kg freestyle division.
Sushil, who will be the second wrestler after Kartar Singh (1988 Seoul Olympics) to be the National flag-bearer at the opening ceremony of the Olympics, said, “It is a big honour. I am grateful to all my countrymen.”
Asian champion Yogeshwar Dutt, who had lost narrowly in the quarterfinals four years ago in Beijing, is now wiser. “I will not commit a similar mistake this time…since I have gone through some injuries in the past, I have to be careful.”
The hunger for an Olympic medal has driven me so far and I am aiming for one…the competition will be tough. We have a lot of experience and we are second to none,” said Yogeshwar (60kg).
Nineteen-year-old Amit Kumar said the trick would be to handle the pressure. “My coaches have advised me to take the Olympics as any other competition. I am doing that to keep off pressure. From wrestlers like Sushil and Yogeshwar, I have learnt that you go to the mat to win.”
With Olympic countdown reaching its final phase, Amit (55kg) said his focus would be to lose weight and increase his speed.
Narsingh Yadav (74kg) gained a lot from his trip to the US. “I learnt a few things from some of the top wrestlers over there. At the top level, the difference is not much. I am working hard to become better.”
Chief freestyle coach Vinod Kumar was confident that the high-altitude training in the US would benefit the wrestlers in London. “There we did five bouts a day — the kind of bouts we would face in London. It will help our wrestlers.”
Geeta (55kg) said she enjoyed the limelight after making it to the Olympics. She was determined to make the most of the opportunity. “I am inferior to none. I have performed well in the past and will do it again.”
The wrestlers will travel to Minsk (Belarus) on Thursday night for the last phase of their training, which will continue till August 4. “Minsk is not very far from London and training there will help the wrestlers in acclimatisation,” said coach Yashvir Singh.
The team will be accompanied by a group of 12 wrestlers and four support staff.