Millennium Post

When they grappled to win hearts!

Four years of blood, sweat and tears culminated into a historic Olympic performance as Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt did the country proud with lion-hearted performances in a truly memorable 2012 for Indian wrestling.

Sushil scripted history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back individual medals, a silver in London after is Beijing bronze, while his long-term friend Yogeshwar claimed a memorable bronze as Indian wrestlers proved their mettle at the greatest sporting extravaganza on earth.

Sushil’s success at the London Games was a testimony to the fact that his bronze medal-winning performance in Beijing four years ago was not a flash in the pan.

Growing up in a non-descript village called Baprola on the outskirts of the national capital, the modest Sushil fought bravely after vomiting and suffering dehydration following his semi-final victory over Kazakhstan’s Akzhurek Tanatarov, but ended up a 1-3 loser against a strong Japanese rival Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the gold medal bout.

Nevertheless, even the silver was enough for the 29-year-old to record his name in the annals of Indian sports.

If the bronze in the Chinese capital awakened the country to Sushil’s potential, the white metal reaffirmed his status as one of the best in the business.

Sushil’s qualification to the London Games was no less a story in itself as this stockily built man sealed his berth in his third attempt after winning the 66kg freestyle title at the World Qualifying Tournament.

On the other hand, Yogeshwar produced a heroic show on the mat as he worked his way through three rounds of repechage to snatch the bronze medal in the men’s freestyle 60 kg category at the Excel Arena.

Yogeshwar pulled off a spectacular 3-1 victory over North Korea’s Ri Jong Myong to bring about his moment of glory in a thrilling bout, which saw the Indian concede the first round.

Yogeshwar clinched the second round and in the decider, the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist pulled off a stunning ‘fitele’, a term used by wrestlers when they twirl their opponent on their back a few times with great speed, to completely leave the Korean in a daze.

The 29-year-old, who also injured his eye during the bouts, said his body had given up but his spirit kept him going as he fought three opponents in less than an hour to clinch a bronze.

Even after the London Games, Indian wrestlers continued to be the cynosure of all eyes as a Khel Ratna, three Arjuna awards, one Dhyanchand and a Dronacharya further boosted their confidence.

While Yogeshwar was awarded the country’s highest sporting honour  Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Narsingh Pancham Yadav, Geeta Phogat and Ravinder Kumar received the Arjuna awards.

Vinod Kumar was honoured with the Dhyanchand award while Yashvir Singh, the long-time coach of Sushil and Yogeshwar, walked away with the prestigious Dronacharya award on the National Sports Day at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

Five grapplers had qualified for the London Games with Geeta Phogat becoming the first Indian female wrestler to have qualified for the Olympics after she won a gold medal in the Asian Qualifying Tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan.
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