Rio is at the back of his mind but for Sushil Kumar, one of India’s greatest Olympians, the immediate aim is to win a gold medal in the upcoming Asian Games, a stage where the decorated wrestler, surprisingly, is yet to taste success.
The 31-year-old grappler is India’s only two-time individual Olympic medallist, clinched a gold medal in World Championships and the latest in his rich collection is a yellow metal that he has just won in the 20th Commonwealth Games in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Such is his success story that the countless medals that he had won in various other important tournaments in the past, often tend to get lost.
“My next international events are World Championships and Asian Games. Both are important for me. My ultimate target is a gold in 2016 Rio Olympics. But I have not won a gold in the Asian Games and so I want to win a gold in South Korea,” Sushil told PTI.
As the country’s best exponent of his sport, Sushil has urged the India’s private sector to lend a helping hand to Olympic sports in order to help them compete with cricket on an even keel.
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Sushil said India can become a sporting power in Olympic sport if the private sector comes in a big way.
“We can be a power in Olympic sport just like we are a top country in cricket. Olympic sport and cricket can survive together and it can happen if private sector comes in a big way to help sports like wrestling,” said the wrestler who won a bronze and a silver in 2008 and 2012 Olympics.
Sushil said efforts should be made to spread wrestling to each and every corner of the country.
Sushil, who won a gold in men’s 75kg freestyle in the Commonwealth Games here, said Indian can further rise in wrestling if the sport conquers new horizons in the country.
“I am for spreading the sport in other parts of the game. It (wrestling) is a traditional game and there are a lot of talent in the country. How to tap the talent is the important thing,” Sushil said.
“Whenever I am required and my service is necessary to do that (to spread the sport), I am ready. For my part, a wrestling academy is coming up in Haryana and my aim is to open branches of this academy in different parts of the country later on,” he said.
Sushil also pitched for more corporate sector support for the wrestlers as the country has now emerged as a power to reckon with in the world.
“I feel for my wrestler colleagues. I have few sponsorship with Mountain Dew and Emami paint and I am brand ambassador of some other companies. But my fellow wrestlers don’t have this kind of endorsement.
“The corporate sector should come out and support the wrestlers. They should get sponsorship so that they can continue the sport at the highest level with the best of facilities and without financial tensions,” he added.
He is happy with the help provided by the federation and government.
“Training and taking good food supplement is very important and wrestlers have been getting all these. We have been told we will be sent for a foreign exposure-cum-training trip outside the country before the World Championships. So I am happy the federation and the government have been looking after the wrestlers very well,” he said.
Asked if he has any role model, he said, “My guru (Satpal Maharaj) is my role model and my inspiration.”