Greco-Roman get its due

Greco-Roman get its due

The names of grapplers like Ravinder Singh (60kg), Sanjay Kumar (74kg), Anil Kumar (96kg) and Rajender Kumar (55kg) suddenly became commonplace. The quartet hogged the limelight at the Commonwealth Games with four gold medals that lifted them from ground zero to the stature of heroes.

The golden run of the wrestlers is certainly a fillip for the Greco-Roman sport. The strong gathering, cheering every second of the bout, at the Indira Gandhi Sports complex mirrored the enthusiasm the foursome brought among the people.

“We salute the crowd for their immense support. We are happy that people are coming to watch our sport. This is a good sign for wrestling,” Anil said.

Their heroics made the Indians proud but more importantly, it provided a perfect platform for the growth of wrestling, especially Greco-Roman, on Indian soil. But how much and how well the sport develops will dependa lot on whether the wrestling mat reaches every nook and corner of the vast nation or not.

“We will continue to fight and try our best to bring more gold for Hindustan in the hope that more youngsters become wrestlers,” Ravinder said.

When Sushil Kumar won the bronze medal in the Beijing Olympics, raising the profile of the freestyle discipline, Greco-Roman was still in its infancy in India.

Presently, wrestling is confined mainly to the northern states and it is no surprise that four champion wrestlers emerged from the villages of Haryana. Wrestling or ‘kushti’ (as it is known in the villages of India) dates back to the middle ages and later as competitive sport, it took the name of freestyle wrestling.

The main difference between the two styles of grappling is that Greco-Roman forbids holding the opponent below the waist.

Ravinder gave a good account of why the Greco-Roman wrestlers couldn’t perform well at the international arena.

“We used to practise freestyle wrestling and compete in Greco-Roman. But for the last two years, we were training in the Greco-Roman style. We were given good facilities, food and other things to practice for the Commonwealth Games,” reasoned Ravinder, struggling to hide his emotions.

The champions credited their success to akharas – traditional wrestling arenas equipped with small mud-pits -- where freestyle wrestling is practiced. 

“When you start wrestling, you have to begin with freestyle, because that helps you become a better grappler. You can find an akhara in every village and during the morning and evening, you’ll always find kids slugging it out in the mud,” said Sanjay who, like his compatriots, began learning the nuances of wrestling from age of 10.

Supporting Sanjay’s view, Anil said: “Akharas shaped my body and my thinking. If you want to learn wrestling, learn it the traditional Indian way. There is nothing like it.”
Finally, the gritty wrestlers are getting accolades and rewards for their outstanding performances. “We are happy. The hard work of the wrestlers has paid off. Now our aim is to win medals in the Asiad and the Olympics,” chief national coach Hargobind Singh said.

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