In a country where winning an Olympic medal is a rarity and bagging two in a row a distant dream, India's lone double-Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar has revealed that he was advised to "bow out on a high" after his bronze-medal feat at the 2008 Beijing Games.
In a book titled 'My Olympic Journey', Sushil recalled that despite suggestions of calling it quits after the Beijing Olympics, he chose to stay on as he felt "it was the start, not the end", and eventually managed to better the colour of his medal four years later at the London Games in 2012.
"I returned to India (after Beijing Games) and was told by my well-wishers to bow out on a high and retire. I was flabbergasted. After all these years, I had finally realized what it meant to be an Olympic medallist and what was needed to achieve that goal. It was only after winning the Olympic bronze that I grasped the finer points of wrestling, such as how to hold an opponent, various techniques and strategies for different fights. It was the start, not the end.
"I began to build up my game with even more rigour and passion, and the results soon followed," Sushil revealed in a book co-authored by journalists Digvijay Singh Deo and Amit Bose.
The 33-year-old legendary wrestler disclosed that initially he could not understand the magnitude of winning an Olympic medal when he had first bagged it at Beijing.
"I frankly did not understand the magnitude of what I had just achieved.
"...I wasn't aware till then that a 52-year jinx on Indian wrestling had been ended with my medal. I learnt that KD Jadhav had previously won a medal in Helsinki in 1952. I was happy being an Olympic medallist, but the true worth of the medal would be realized only when I came home.
"In Beijing, a lot of my fellow athletes, officials and coaches congratulated me, but I was used to seeing so many medallists walk around the Village that I did not truly comprehend the weight of my achievement."
Although Sushil lost out on a gold at London, he feels fortunate to have climbed the podium at the Olympics twice.
"I could not perform to my expectations in the final and was comprehensively beaten. I was disappointed at losing out on the gold, but I knew that on that day, it was the best I could do. As I stood on the Olympic podium again, I was satisfied.
"...The medal was a gift from the Gods, and that day, despite my body being weakened by frequent vomiting and loose motions, the Gods had once again smiled on me."