A stirring trip started in Baprola

A stirring trip started in Baprola
Sushil Kumar with his silver medal feat at the London Olympics on Sunday has not only weaved a legend of his own but also given the little known but proud village of Baprola, on the outskirts of Delhi, a reason to drown into a night of endless celebrations, once again.

The Chhatrasal Stadium, where he began training at the age of 14, echoed with the din of crackers, traditional dhols and nagaras; many young starry eyed wrestlers danced to their beats, dreaming of replicating the achievements of their beloved Sushil bhaiyya in the years to come.

The old coaches emotionally recalled the journey of a young Sushil from mud pits (akhadas) at the Chhatrasal Stadium, where he was trained by Yashvir Singh and Ramphal, and later by Satpal Singh.

“He was 14 when he came to Chattrasal in 1993-94. I was his senior. But even as a youngster he was immensely dedicated and sincere towards the sport. He always yearned to better himself and to do something different,” recalled Virender Singh, a former wrestler and now a coach at the stadium.

The son of the Delhi Transport Corporation (DTC) bus driver joyfully went through the rigours of gruelling training schedule and became a state champion at the age of 18. “It was then we realised he was cut out for bigger things in life. His strength is his ability to endure. He is very grounded and always respected his elders. Even as a junior player he was hungry to learn something new. As he grew, his interest in wrestling increased and with that his efforts,” Virender said.

The 66kg wrestler has been a consistent performer, but it was his bronze medal finish in Beijing Olympics that catapulted him into limelight, but sudden fame failed to add a dash of arrogance to the Delhiite as he continued to work hard, staying grounded. 

A rather lean 2009, curtailed by injuries and increase in bodyweight, had sparked off fears of a premature end to his career. But Sushil struck back in 2010 with gold medals in the World Championships in Moscow and the Commonwealth Games at home. He made it to London by making the cut in one of the last Olympic Qualifying tournaments in Taiyuan, China in April, doing it in style with a gold. 

From there, things began to take a favourable turn. He was given the honour of being India's flag-bearer at the London Olympics but the next day he had to fly out to Belarus for training. Never the one to begrudge, he flew to his training centre, bringing to fore his fierce focus and desire to win a medal. 

At the Games, Sushil scripted a fitting closure -- winning a silver. For the 400-odd budding wrestlers at the Chhatrasal Stadium it was a heartbreak. “We learned he vomited 2-3 times before the final and could not give his best. But even a silver medal is a big thing. The children are dancing. Yogeshwar Dutt, who won bronze in 60 kg, is also from Chhatrasal and we are eagerly awaiting their return. It is a proud moment for all of us,“ said a beaming Virender.

Comments (+)