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Sushil Kumar rises again to show huge gulf in Indian wrestling

Indian wrestling in 2017 was headlined by the return of Sushil Kumar and the country's failure at World Championships.

Written by Vinay Siwach | New Delhi |
Updated: December 26, 2017 9:22:14 pm
sushil kumar, sushil kumar india, sushil kumar wrestler, commonwealth wrestling championships 2017 Sushil Kumar won his first gold medal in international wrestling since 2014. (Express file photo)

When India landed in Paris for the World Championships in August earlier in 2017, many international wrestlers were surprised to see Sushil Kumar in the warm-up area. They inquired if the two-time Olympic medallist from India was back to compete. But back in August Sushil was not competing at the Worlds in Paris. He was there as the national observer of the Indian wrestling team. And he was in the warm-up area to help some of the wrestlers who were participating in the Worlds.

Three months later, Sushil made a long-awaited comeback to the mat when he competed at the Senior Nationals in Indore in November. The 34-year-old, who had not competed since the gold-winning effort at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, returned in style and won the gold medal, 10 years since his last gold medal at Nationals.

Sushil, however, was again in the middle of a controversy after winning the gold. Out of his five bouts in Indore, three were walkover. No wrestler competed in those three bouts which prompted many to say that the medal should not be accepted by him.

A month later in South Africa, Sushil won a gold at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships — a competition that does not have the best quality but in that tournament he narrowly beat Parveen Rana, a wrestler who did not wrestle him in Indore.

Apart from the return of Sushil, Indian wrestling did not have the best year in the competition. No wrestler could win a medal at the World Championships. There were hosts of silver medals at the Asian Championships in New Delhi and the two of the best wrestlers this year were Bajrang Punia and Ritu Phogat. Both returned with a silver medal from the U-23 World Championships and while Punia was Asia champion, Phogat ended with a bronze medal.

Sakshi Malik had inconsistent performances with failure in Paris but a silver medal in the Asian Championships. (Source: Twitter)

Sakshi Malik, India’s lone medallist in wrestling from last year’s Olympics, had inconsistent performances with failure in Paris and a silver medal in the Asian Championships. There were more medals from Indian wrestlers in 2017 but nothing was noteworthy which puts them on the wrestling map of champions.

Despite the dearth of medals at the international competitions, Indian wrestlers at the junior level did shine. The wrestlers did grab some medals at the Asian Championships and two medals at the Junior World Championships. And, the Cadet World Championships saw some of the best performances from the Indian girls where they grabbed two gold medals. Two Greco-Roman wrestlers also won bronze medals which was welcome news in the neglected form of wrestling in India.

Earlier in February, India had one of their most disappointing tournaments in Iran. In the World Cup that year, India failed to win a single tie against superior teams. They had no wins against Iran, Russia or Georgia.

There were performance that needed to be noticed but more than that, wrestling in year 2017 was about the return of India’s best wrestler. Sushil made a glorious comeback with gold medals in the two tournaments he participated in. Though tougher challenge awaits him and other wrestlers in India, this year could not be termed as the best for India.

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