On this day in 2012: Sushil Kumar clinched historic silver medal at London Olympics

Only 12 hours had passed Indians were celebrating the bronze by Yogeshwar Dutt and getting ready to cheer for Sushil Kumar in 66 kg category in 2012 London Olympics. His bronze at Beijing .4 years ago had made him a superstar in making and by the time London Olympics were about to start Sushil was considered a genuine medal prospect by Indian sports experts. A few hours later he was standing at a podium with a silver medal and thus becoming the only Indian to be called Double Olympian medalist.

Sushil Kumar was born in Baprola Village near Najafgarh in Southwest Delhi. His father was himself a wrestler and that inspired him to take up wrestling. Kumar trained in Pehalwani training at Akhada in Chhatarsal stadium from age of 14. With minimal funds and poor training facilities for wrestling in India, even for the 2008 Olympic team, his family made sure he obtained the necessary dietary supplements by sending him tinned milk, ghee and fresh vegetables.

He switched to freestyle wrestling and tasted first success at world cadet games in 1998 with a gold medal. After that, he won medals at various competitions and started making a name for him. Just was his showing that by 2006 he was the proud recipient of Arjuna Awardee. Now an Olympic medal was missing as he was gearing up for 2008 Beijing Olympics. But all his hopes were brushed aside when he was defeated in the first round of 66kg category and leaving him to pray that opponent Andriy reaches final so that Sushil gets a second crack at a bronze medal by repechage.

He won his all three matches to become the second wrestler to win a bronze medal. Kumar disclosed that he had no masseur during the three bouts he won within a span of 70 minutes to take the bronze. The team manager Kartar Singh who is a former Asian Games medallist acted as the masseur for him. He did become a household name and with that, there was added responsibility on him to bring one more medal in the 2012 Olympics as now he had become a prospect. He was told by somebody after the Beijing Olympics to “retire on high”.But he felt he still had a lot more to achieve.

Winning the next Olympic medal was the right way to satisfy himself. But his path towards qualification was topsy-turvy. Injured his shoulder and his qualification in 2012 London Olympics was at stake. Sushil fought back to achieve qualification after winning the gold medal at the qualifying tournament in China. Before the London Games, the weigh-in was scheduled he was 6 kgs overweight and had precisely 10 days to cut it down. Sushil in desperation starved himself, wore heavy clothes doing his cardio exercises and somehow made it. The night before his first bout Sushil got muscle cramps, dehydration and experienced spasms all over his body. To make matters worse his first bout opponent was 2008 Olympic gold medalist. His opponent won the first round but Sushil used his experience to win next two rounds and progress.

After the bout, Sushil collapsed in a changing room due to exhaustion and everybody was worried and were trying to revive him. Sushil’s condition became better and he won the next bout to reach semis. Semis bout was one in which world saw Sushil at his best and reaching the finals.

At this point, he was sure of a medal and was in history books as well. Just before the final bout he had a stomach bug and went to washroom 6 times. This did not allow him the rest and his body gave away in final as Japanese opponent did not allow Indian wrestler to win a single round. A fully fit Sushil would have been difficult to beat but then everyone has to accept things as it comes. Sushil’s silver was  6th medal and it was India’s best-ever haul for Summer Olympics.

He became a superstar and someone who can be looked up to. He is still trying for Tokyo Olympics and wants the colour to be one better than last time. At 38 years of age, his mobility and reflexes will be tested but then he has the experience and knows what to do in big games.