The stellar performances of young Indian wrestlers in the World Championships has once again added to the country's growing reputation in sport in the international arena. What, perhaps, has been most satisfying is that India’s second line of grapplers, too, has toed the line of their feted seniors and given hope of swelling the medal tally in the forthcoming major events, particularly in Rio in 2016.
A proud Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), in a felicitation ceremony on Wednesday, lavished praise on the medal winning young crop whose performance gave India a sixth place in freestyle competition at the World Championships and a direct qualification to the World Cup.
“Earlier before entering the competition, we used to search the draw to check where wrestlers from countries like Iran, Bulgaria, Russia, USA are placed. Today it is the other countries which look for Indian wrestlers in the draw,” Raj Singh, WFI secretary-general, said.
The podium finishes has not only boosted the confidence of wrestlers for next year’s Commonwealth Games and Asian Games but also stoked the hunger among their fellow grapplers to produce medal-winning performances at international tournaments.
“Whenever we enter a tournament, the target is always to win gold. The wrestler I lost to in the final, I had beaten him in the Olympics. So I was disappointed. Now our focus is to win medals in Commonwealth Games and Asian Games,” said Amit Kumar, who won silver medal in 55 kgs in the World Championships.
Bajrang, who won bronze medal in 60 kg category, attributed his success to the preparation before the tournament.
“The foundations was laid by Sushil (Kumar) bhai and Yogeshwar (Dutt) bhai and with their help we too are able to win medals,” said Bajrang.
But, the most significant victory has been that of Sandeep Tulsi Yadav, who despite a series of demoralising injuries, went on to win bronze in the Greco-Roman category, which was a first for India at this level. His seniors today credit him for the revival of the style which for long has been overshadowed by the more popular freestyle wrestling.
“Today I feel all my hard work had meaning. I want to keep winning medals for India,” said Yadav, who works with Western Railways.
India's Greco-Roman coach Kuldeep Singh added: “People think Greco Roman is big in Europe and our wrestlers can’t win. They are strong, but we have showed that we can win too.”
The WFI announced a cash prize of Rs 5 lakh for silver medal and Rs 3 lakh for bronze