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Chhatrasal’s Tag-team

Fast friends and training partners since last 15 years,Sushil and Yogeshwar share Olympic high

For two 14-year-olds who started out together at the Chhatrasal Stadium akhada several years back,Sushil Kumar’s silver on Sunday also marked the day a pact they made between themselves all those years back come true.

Sushil and Yogeshwar Dutt,closest of friends,will return with an Olympic medal each. “We have talked so many times about winning medals together at Olympics. It has happened this time,bahut khushi ho rahi hai. Humara sapna poora ho gaya,” Yogeshwar told The Indian Express from London.

A bond that started when the pair joined the akhada within a couple of months of each other in 1994,only grew stronger over the years,even as Sonepat’s SAI centre became the hub of Indian wrestling,where they have shacked up in adjacent rooms. Back then,there was no functional mess,and like other trainees a the time,they cooked together. They have often shared meal from the same plate and continue to do so.

FRIENDS AND BROTHERS

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“We started to train together and have won so many medals at the same tournament. In London,we have made history together — aisa kabhi nahi hua hai,” says Yogeshwar. They had come close in Beijing,when Yogeshwar’s journey ended in a quarter-final loss,while Sushil went on to win the bronze. That loss put the former out of the spotlight while his good friend became the face of wrestling,an image he consolidated after winning the 2010 Worlds. The same year,Yogeshwar made history of his own,by winning gold at the Sr Asian Wrestling championship in South Korea– India’s first top finish after a gap of 21 years,but the feat went unreported. Then came the knee injury in 2009 that almost ended the once prospering career. With London’s bronze,Yogeshwar has found himself in rightful company,in more ways than one.”There more like brothers than friends. He had made it a mission to win a medal this time and Sushil and everybody in the family is happy for him,” says Savi,Sushil’s wife.

What makes them the best in business is their single-minded focus in training. “Sometimes,while everyone else is sleeping,they will be training,at even 12 in the night,” said Pradeep Kumar,who is one of Sushil’s sparring partners.

Hard trainers both,they are also the first to help out new trainees. “Yogeshwar is very gentle,and never raises his voice. Sushil,on the other hand,speaks his mind. If someone trains incorrectly,he lets them know,” Pradeep adds. That the two are the only wrestlers at the akhada permitted to carry cell-phones,make them even more popular amongst their roommates.

FINAL STRETCH

Their careers,that started together,might also end the same way. Both registered their first international wins within a year of each other — Sushil in 1998 and Yogeshwar in 1999. Thirteen years later,Sushil has two Olympic medals to one for Yogeshwar. “I can’t say how long we can carry on. Neither Sushil nor I can say with confidence that we will play at the 2016 Games. But yes,we can carry on for next two years at least,” says Yogeshwar.

First published on: 13-08-2012 at 03:14:12 am
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