On this day in 2012: Yogeshwar Dutt wins bronze for India at London Olympics

It has been eight years since Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze in 60kg freestyle wrestling to give a boost to India’s count at 2012 London Olympics. The way he celebrated showed what that medal meant to him and the way the Indian audience was celebrating was worth watching on television. After the medal ceremony, he was seen posing to cameraman by biting the medal.

Yogeshwar Dutt was born in Bhainswal Kalan village in Sonipat district of Haryana. Haryana always had a strong pool of freestyle wrestlers so it did not come as surprise when he took up wrestling at age of seven as he liked the sport. He was trained by coach Rampal. He tasted his first success by getting gold in 55Kg freestyle category at Commonwealth Championships in 2003.

From 2005 onwards he switched to 60Kg category and played his whole career in that category only. Yogeshwar lost his father nine days before taking flight for 2006 Doha Asian games, also sustained a knee injury but despite all physical and mental trauma, he was able to win bronze in 60kg category thereby showing his tough side as well. There was no stopping Yogeshwar and by 2012  he won medals galore at Asian & commonwealth championships & in Asian & commonwealth games. But the elusive Olympic medal, which was his dream, was still missing from his already impressive CV.

It was a different ballgame that kickstarted the dream of Yogeshwar’s Olympic medal. He did not have any idea about the Olympic as he played wrestling only as he liked the sport. When he saw Leander winning bronze at the 1996 Olympics he asked his father about the Olympics and came to know about its importance in ones sporting journey. From there on he had one aim of winning an Olympic medal. He participated in the 2004 Athens Olympics but was very young and was brushed aside. By the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he had a lot of international exposure and came better prepared but lost a quarterfinal bout by one point in last 7-8 seconds.

Sushil Kumar won a bronze medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics which kind of gave Yogeshwar the belief and he made his mind to win a medal at the 2012 London Olympics anyhow. The road ahead was not easy as he got injured and was out for almost a year. By the time he qualified for London Olympics, he had a gold medal at 2010 Commonwealth Games and 2 gold medals at Asian championships. He was pitted in a very tough group and once that was done the only possible way of achieving them was to beat them.

In his group, he had Besik Khudukov of Russia (5 times world champion), Franklin Gomes from Puerto Rica (World championships silver medal), Masoud Esmaeilpour of Iran (2010 Asian Champion). He was up for it but lost to Besik in pre-quarters by one point, but he knew that he would get another shot at a medal via repechage round. He started preparing for the repechage rounds as Besik was a certainty to reach finals which would have given Yogeshwar a second chance. He reached and Yogeshwar got the chance. In his first repechage round against Franklin Homes, Yogeshwar got lucky with a toss on both occasions and earn a flinch position. Yogeshwar won his bout in two rounds by 1-0. Next, he was up against Masoud and he beat him by 7-5. Now there was a Korean in Ri Jyong Myong in his way of fulfilling his dream. Myong won the first round & Yogeshwar took the second via flinch. In third and deciding round Yogeshwar went onto aggressive and scored points by rolling over his opponent and won it on technical superiority in 62 seconds only.

It made him the third wrestler to win Olympic medal after KD Jadhav and Sushil Kumar. In post-interview, he said,” I have dreamt of it since Leander won it in 1996”. It took him 16 years from that point to fulfil his dream and he was a surprise package for all as everyone’s hope was pinned on Sushil Kumar. Although he did not do well in 2016 Rio his podium finish at London is a no mean achievement and has inspired new generations to bring more laurels for India.