Sushil Kumar lost to an energetic Japanese, Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, as well as to a bout of dehydration before the final, in the 66 kg of freestyle wrestling at the ExCel Arena to pick up a silver medal. The 29-year-old became the first Indian to win back-to-back individual medals in the Olympics.
Former world champion and Beijing bronze medallist, Sushil put up a terrific performance through the day, right from beating the defending champion Ramazan Sahin of Turkey in the pre-quarterfinals, but lacked the energy when it mattered most.
The Japanese, World championship silver medallist and the reigning Asian Games champion, controlled the final with a solid performance and conceded a solitary point to the Indian, that too, after he had almost sealed victory.
Deemed to be one of the quickest in the world with his sharp attacks, the Japanese brought Sushil down to get one point in the first round.
In the second period, the Japanese grabbed the Indian by his leg, lifted him and flipped him on the mat to gain three points in the first 40 seconds. Sushil managed to eke out a point by pulling the Japanese down, but was unable to gain a good grip thereafter and he ran out of time.
The way Sushil fought earlier in the day, it had looked he was destined for the gold medal, nothing less. He was at his fiery best in the semifinals when he beat Akzhurek Tantarov of Kazakhstan by stringing six points after trailing 0-3 in the first 25 seconds, in the decisive third round.
The Indian first put the opponent down, and manoeuvred his way to win technical points in a flurry. He even lifted the Kazakh on his shoulder the effort fetching him an additional point.After the Kazakh had floored the Indian and flipped him for three points.
Sushil had started the bout on a strong note, winning three points in the space of 40 seconds after a passive first minute. The Kazakh won three points to win the second period and three more to smell victory in the third period, before the complexion of the bout changed.
Sushil had to fight it out in the quarterfinals against Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan in similar fashion in three periods. He won the first period 3-1, after it had ended 2-1, as the ‘challenge’ by the Uzbek camp was unsuccessful.
In the second round the Uzbek won 2-1, with the Indian camp’s challenge proving unsuccessful. In the third period, Sushil collected two points, and the Uzbek beat a hasty retreat.
In a classic pre-quarterfinal bout, after a bye in the first round, Sushil came back from the brink of defeat to beat the former World champion and the Beijing Games gold medallist, Ramzan Sahin of Turkey.
Sahin won the first round with his sharp reactions as he got on top of the Indian, craftily avoiding his grasp.
In the second period, there was no point for either wrestler as they avoided taking the risk. Sushil was lucky with the toss as he picked the red ball, and capitalised on the ‘clinch’ to win the crucial point that forced the third round.
Sushil was at his best in the third round, when he got a quick point before the first minute ran out, and sat on the point with all his strength, in what proved to be a keen tussle.
It was a nice way to close the Games for the Indian camp, though gold would have been an ideal icing on the cake.
“The stomach problem had made me weak,’’ said Sushil, who sported a bandage on the back of his right palm, apart from knee-caps on both his legs.
He said that he was very happy to have changed the colour of his Olympic medal from bronze to silver, and predicted a golden future for Indian wrestling.
He said that Yogeshwar Dutt’s bronze medal had given a big boost for him, and two medals from wrestling was a good augury.
Quite relaxed, Sushil said that he owed all the success to the love and blessings showered by the people back home, and assured that India would perform much better in the next Games.
He made it a point to mention, mata, pita, guru and God as the foundation for all his achievements.
Coach Raj Singh, the secretary general of the Indian wrestling federation, said that after the semifinal Sushil had eaten in a restaurant at the arena, and suffered bouts of vomiting and loose motion.