A huge roar went up in the packed wrestling hall at the SECC complex when the ring announcer hollered out Sushil Kumar’s name before his semi-final clash. As the 31-year-old took his first step into an arena with a generous number of Indian flags waving around, the wrestler seemed stunned just for a moment.
The next few seconds perhaps gave out the reason for Sushil’s surprise. Seated to his right, a burly old man, a bright red Fedora perched on his head, had just bounced to his feet clapping his huge hands together. The spontaneity of Sushil’s mentor and father-in-law Satpal’s applause caused water to spurt out of the bottle in his hand, showering his protege’s twins in wife Savi’s arms with stray droplets.
As Sushil’s twins bawled, the wrestler, till then a picture of focus, craned his neck, firing off a quick smile to his wife, who busied herself with quieting down her little ones.
Eight minutes later, having dispatched Nigerian, Melvin Bibo off in an engaging contest, Sushil bounded up the bleachers, picking up one of his boys as the rest of his family patted his back.
Tuesday had been Sushil’s day through and through. India’s only two-time individual Olympic medallist hardly broke a sweat as he packed off Jayden Lawrence with a commanding 11-0 scoreline. Next up was Kushan Sundrange. The Sri Lankan barely forced Sushil to exert himself any further, as the latter produced another dominating performance, winning the bout 10-0. In both bouts, Sushil won four technical points, not giving his opponents any ground, as he rolled into the semi-final. The wrestler, participating in the 74kg category for the first time, seemed to take to his new weight grouping like a duck to water. Back in June, he announced his entry into the new category with a silver at Sassari in Italy, dispelling any doubts about his chances against heavier opponents.
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And in the final, Sushil was in a zone. The gold medal clash against Pakistan’s Qamar Abbas took just 1.47 minutes. Sushil won 6-0, pinning down the Pakistani wrestler emphatically to take a very commanding victory. It was almost a walk in the park, the 31-year-old Sushil coming out all guns blazing immediately going on to attack the Pakistani’s legs, bringing him down in the first ten seconds of the match to earn a four point lead.
While Sushil’s victory was full of attacking vigor, his younger compatriot Amit Kumar Dahiya was just as impressive in his counter-attacking moves. Dahiya dispatched Ebikweminomo Welson of Nigeria 6-2, letting the taller Nigerian attack him before surprising him with swift raids, which seemed to give the Nigerian little time to think. The moment of the match perhaps came in the final minute of the first round. Welson hoisted the smaller Amit on to his shoulders, ready to fling him to the ground. In a move so deft and fluid, Amit managed to wriggle himself off the Nigerian’s shoulder, landing perfectly on his legs.
The presence of wrestlers with Olympic medals and World Championship medals was the deciding factor in India’s brilliant performance, according to Sushil. In a span of 30 giddy minutes, India had bagged three gold medals, Sushil, Amit and the 19-year-old Vinesh who took gold in the women’s 48 kg. “We had prepared really well before coming here and also the practice sessions before the bouts gave us a lot of confidence. The standard of Indian wrestling has gradually increased over the years and today you could see our dominance by the kind of victories the wrestlers have recorded,” said Sushil immediately after his final bout.
Amit Kumar though said that it was the World Championship silver that he won in Budapest was something that was definitely more memorable to him. “I didn’t expect this competition to be so easy. I only had to stretch in my last bout. Before that it was frankly quite straightforward,” he said.
The 20-year-old defeated the reigning Commonwealth champion in the 55 kg class, Pakistan’s Azhar Hussein, a victory which Amit said gave him a lot of satisfaction. “Before the bout, everyone had told me, jaake badla leke aana. The victory and the margin itself gave me a lot of happiness,” he said. Kumar beat Hussain 10-0, avenging Anil Kumar’s loss in the 2010 Games. In the men’s category, Rajeev Tomar was the only Indian wrestler to miss out on a gold medal on Tuesday. Tomar lost to Korey Jarvis of Canada in the finals of the 125 kg category, settling for silver.