'I expect a gold from my wards'

Expertspeak: Coach Satpal predicts more medals

'I expect a gold from my wards'

Satpal Singh won numerous accolades on the domestic and international stage but an Olympic medal remained a dream. Years later, his pupil Sushil Kumar fulfilled that dream by winning a bronze in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

“I am lucky to see one of my students winning an Olympic medal. I always wanted to win an Olympic gold but could not. Sushil fulfilled my dream to some extent but I hope that this time at least one of them returns with a gold,” he said.
Satpal can hope for more from the wrestling contingent at London. The five-member team, including a woman grappler, promises a bigger medal haul than Beijing.

The Chhatrasal Stadium has emerged the training hub for most top wrestlers of the country. The three London bound wrestlers, Sushil, Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg) and 19-year-old Amit Kumar (55kg), are products of Satpal’s akhada (wrestling academy). Understandably, the mentor was happy with the success of his wards and exuded confidence of a better show this time around.

“All the wrestlers have worked very hard and I am confident they will return with better results this time.”

Satpal, who was at his peak during the 70s and early 80s, set a new benchmark for wrestlers with his impressive performances. Trained by the legendary Guru Hanuman, he was a national champion 16 times in various weight categories. He participated in the 1972 Munich Olympics but failed to make much impact.

He, however, returned with silver medals in the Commonwealth Games at Auckland (1974), Edmonton (1978) and Brisbane (1982). The gold at the 1982 Asian Games remains the high point of his career.

“Wrestling has changed a lot from our times. We used to compete on mud but today you have to be good on mat if you seek international success. Even though we did not have to qualify, making the cut was difficult. But today it has become tougher. It has also become much faster,” he said.

Satpal had encouraging words for Sushil, who is also his son-in-law. “Sushil is very hard working. In my times, my guru used to rate me as his best student. Today I can say the same for Sushil. He has, in fact, done better than me. He never misses his training, no matter what. Importantly, he is humble even after achieving so much.

It is a matter of pride for all of us that he is the flag bearer of the Indian contingent at London. I have spoken to Sushil and he is very relaxed. He is not taking any pressure and that is a good sign."

Diet is a crucial part of wrestlers' training and Satpal hoped the Games Village will meet their requirements. “We need good vegetarian food and that is a problem we often face abroad. They got good food at Belarus and Colorado Springs (where they trained). They are also taking extra food packets to London. So, hopefully it should not be a problem."

Satpal now awaits the competition to commence at London. A medal or two would go a long way in boosting the image of Indian wrestling at the international level.

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