In August last year 16-year-old Anil Kumar, the Asian Cadet champion in the men’s freestyle 46 kg category had bagged a berth for the Youth Olympics in Nanjing.
But on the eve of the event he had to withdraw because he had crossed the age limit by the time the Olympics was upon him. A chance had gone abegging for Anil to prove his mettel on the world stage.
Earlier this week, Anil proved that when given an opportunity, he makes the most of it. He won gold medal in the men’s freestyle 50 kilogram event in the World Cadet Wrestling Championships at Sarejavo, Bosnia.
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It was a dominating performance for the Chhatrasal Stadium trainee, who scored a 10-6 win over the reigning world champion Efan Aeini of Iran. Kumar had carved out wins over Mongolia’s Tumentsogt Bold (10-6) and Ertugal Kahveci of Turkey (12-2), en route to the final as the Asian cadet champion added the world title to his kitty.
“When I missed the Youth Olympics, it was heartbreaking for me. I won the Asian cadet title in May last year and was preparing for the Youth Olympics. But this gold medal has erased those memories (of missing an opportunity) for me. I had trained well for the event and defeating the reigning world cadet champion in the final was something, which I will cherish for days. Playing in Europe was something new for me and I adjusted well to the weather,” said the wrestler, who belongs to Shyamsukh village near Hisar in Haryana.
It was five years ago that a young Anil started wrestling at Shyamsukh on seeing coach Sandeep train budding wrestlers. With his village being 40 kilometres away from Hisar, Anil, whose father Zile Singh is a farmer, travelled to train under Sandeep before eventually shifting base to Delhi.
Soon the wrestler was winning titles at the sub-junior and junior level before he announced his arrival at the Asian stage with a gold medal in the Asian Cadet Championships in Thailand in May last year.
Kumar steamrolled past his opponents from Mongolia, Japan and Uzbekistan on his way to the title and soon shifted to the 50 Kg freestyle category from his usual 46 Kg category.
“Nobody in my family is a wrestler or follows a sport. I used to see Sandeep sir wrestle at the village akhara and opted for wrestling. Earlier, I was bit nervous as all the renowned wrestlers train here but slowly, I gained confidence under Rajendra, Anil and Virender sir. The Asian Cadet Championships gave me a chance to wrestle against opponents from countries like Mongolia, Japan and Uzbekistan and it did help me in World Championships,” Anil said.
India won three medals in Bosnia with wrestler Monu winning a bronze in the men’s freestyle 46 Kg event and wrestler Ankus winning a silver medal in women’s 38 Kg freestyle event.
Coach Virender Kumar believes that Anil will make an impact once he moves to the senior ranks also.
“His strength has been the speed and stamina. He is technically strong and showed that against the final bout against Aeini of Iran. Earlier in the semifinals and quarterfinals, he fought with confidence against wrestlers from Mongolia and Turkey. In the coming years, he has to fight for a spot in the senior team and we are confident he will be able to give a tough challenge,” shared the coach.
And while training at the venue, where the likes of Olympic medallists like Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are based, Anil has seen the two wrestlers from close and often ask the experienced seniors about tips. “Initially whenever they trained here, I would see them from distance. Later, I asked Yogeshwar sir for tips.
He told me some techniques like using the thighs and asked me to add more speed.” For now Anil is picking the right brains as he aims to make a steady climb in the world of wrestling.