Twice before he had fallen on the brink,but Friday was different. Beijing bronze medalist wrestler Sushil Kumar not only won the World Qualifying tournament in the 66kg to book his ticket to the Olympics,he did in style,silencing his critics in the process.
In fact,Sushil had made his point even before that,having not conceded a point till the semi-finals in Taiyuan,China. Ukraines Andriy Kvyatkovskyy did manage to nick a point off him in the semis,but Sushil was never under pressure.
In the previous competitions where he could have qualified,Sushil had earned censure for not only losing his mean streak but also his focus at crucial moments. He failed to retain his World Championship title in Istanbul and exited in the second round at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Astana,Kazakhstan,earlier this month.
But with his shoulder injury a thing of past,the champion made sure there was nothing to hold him back on Friday. I wanted to be aggressive from the start and thats what I did successfully today. I was not doing anything extra,I wasnt tensed but was only following the same routine I have been doing for years. And with my injury healed,I could fight with more ease, Sushil told The Indian Express.
After getting an opening round bye,the 28-year-old blanked Palaus Radley Umang 7-0 and then raced past Jayden Alexander Lawrence 5-0 to book his place in the last four. He won the first period 1-0,Sushil went on to win the bout 3-1.
Making the title clash was enough for Sushil to make the cut for the 2012 Games but clearly he was not satisfied. In the final,he blanked Georgias Otar Tushishvili 3-0 to win his first major gold since the 2010 Commonwealth Games.
Incidentally,Sushil is also the first wrestler from India to qualify for his third Olympics since qualifications were introduced in 1994. His win also calmed the coaching staff. We always knew he would make it,but were a little tense after his previous losses. The pressure is now off, said long-time coach Satpal.
It wasnt a great outing for the other Indians in the fray,however,with Mausam Khatri (96kg),Narsingh Yadav (74kg) and Pawan Kumar (84kg) making their exits. Khatri lost out on bronze after he was beaten 1-3 in the repechage round by Polands Radoslaw Baran. Narsingh lost 0-4 to Bator Bazarov of Krygyzshtan in the last eight while Pawan lost in the round of 16 to Romanias Gheorghita Stefan.