He is a celebrated wrestler, gold medals adorning his home, but at heart he remains a humble and god-fearing man. As he meets us in his one-room accommodation at the SAI Sports Centre here, Yogeshwar Dutt comes across as a well-groomed young man who has his priorities in place. He has begun training after a knee injury.
The 2012 London Olympics bronze medal changed his life. “Lot of things happened… lot of things… I was a mere Olympian before going to London. When I returned I was an Olympic medallist. The feeling took time to sink in, but I felt proud of having served the sport and my country. “More than to me, the medal means a lot to the wrestling fraternity, my country. People recognised me. The only difficult thing was to meet the demands of people. It was not always possible to meet everyone who wanted to meet us,” says Dutt.
Not just bouncers
Menacing, nuisance in public life, intimidating; Dutt acknowledged the general image of wrestlers.
“The image of the wrestlers transformed after the Olympic medals. Sushil (Kumar) was the icon, the role model for all.
“The Olympic glory convinced people that wrestlers were not nuisance value, not just bouncers at events and restaurants.
“Things changed with time. There will be some black sheep but why should the entire wrestling community be blamed for the misdeeds of a few…I am proud to be a wrestler,” he adds.
As he reflects and hopes to participate in the World championship in Budapest in September, Dutt feels managing injuries is the key.
“Injuries hinder your growth and progress. Fitness is the most important aspect.”
Wrestling, insists Dutt, is not about being tall and strong. “You have to be muscular, strong and athletic. Strength and skill have to complement each other at the international level.
“On the mat, you are equal and have to make split second decisions. Power and endurance come in handy in such situations as you study the opponent and plan your moves.
“There is a lot of video analysis now. It works both ways. We need to keep experimenting.
“It is a sport where mental and physical alertness counts a lot. The focus is on training and nothing else matters. We have a fantastic ambience here and we are looked after well. What more can one ask for?” asks Yogeshwar.
Six hours of training, running and gym work speaks volumes of the wrestlers’ daily routine.
“No parties, no movies. We visit home once in six months…If I have to achieve something then I will have to make some sacrifices.”
After 2008, Indian wrestling has looked up. “We were good but not winning medals. Sushil changed that trend. The wrestlers are among the trusted performers now.”
On his humility, Dutt has a simple response. “I have been like this, keep my feet grounded. How can I forget the prayers of the public?”