Indian grapplers will join the Olympic action from on Thursday hoping to provide the late sparks to the contingent’s campaign which has so far not really lived up to expectation with the flop show of many of the serious medal contenders.
The wrestlers had won a bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics Games through Sushil Kumar and will be keen to improve upon their tally when the freestyle competitions get underway at the ExCel Arena.
All eyes will be on Sushil again as he spearheads the Indian challenge in the 66kg category, but with stiff competition expected from other wrestlers, it remains to be seen whether he can repeat his Beijing feat, and thus become the first Indian to win back-to-back Olympic medals.
India has fielded a record five wrestlers for the Olympics and Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg) is also being talked about as a medal prospect. Narsingh Pancham Yadav (74kg), Amit Kumar Dahiya (74kg) and Geeta Phogat (55kg) are the other grapplers in the fray.
Yogeswhar narrowly missed out reaching the semifinals in the Beijing Games and is determined to make amends here. Going by his performance in the lead-up to the mega-event, he is quite capable of springing a surprise.
“If I would have won a medal in the Beijing, probably I would not have been competing in the London Games,” said Yogeshwar, who suffered a career-threatening knee injury just after the 2008 edition.
“The only inspiration for me to make a comeback from the injury was to be able to contest in the London Olympics and bring laurels to my country,” said the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold—medallist,” he had said.
But clearly, it will be Sushil, who will be carrying the burden of a billion hopes on his sturdy shoulders.
The wrestler gave evidence of his class by fetching a gold in the World Qualifying Tournament earlier this year, raising hopes of a good performance in the Olympics. But many of the established Indian stars have failed in these Games, so Sushil has to guard against complacency.
Coming to the younger lot, Amit Kumar’s advent to the senior level has been fantastic, but his lack of experience at the big stage may turn out to be his nemesis, although the 19-year-old is talented enough to make himself count at the Olympics.
Amit surprised one and all with his performance in the Asian Qualifiers by clinching a gold in the 55kg freestyle but he is aware that it won’t be a cake walk in London.
Narsingh, the 74kg free-style wrestler from Maharashtra has been around for some time now and knows all the tricks of the trade. He is hailed as one of the brightest prospects but like Amit, he also would be participating in his debut Olympics.
In the women’s category, the lone Indian to make the cut for the marquee event, Geeta Phogat (55kg), has a tough challenge at hands, but she is capable of springing a surprise. And if she gets a top-eight seeding she might even finish on the podium.
“Geeta has the ability to surprise and cause a few upsets and if she gets a place in the top eight then certainly I can say that she will be a step closer to the medal,” women’s chief coach O P Yadav had said.