Commendable feat

For a sport that has deep roots in this country, wrestling has thrown up few world-beaters from India. Sushil Kumar’s thrilling win at the World Championships in Moscow on Sunday does not mark a total turnaround in that abysmal record, but it does confirm the Indian champion’s place in history while offering fresh hope to a sport grappling with difficult issues off the mat.

Sushil came to prominence two years ago when he won the bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Beijing. A largely unknown face beyond the confines of his sport till then, Sushil brushed off a first-round defeat to emerge with a surprise medal — India’s second from wrestling after K D Jadhav’s bronze at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.

It has not been a smooth journey for the 27-year-old since then. Though accolades and financial rewards poured in following his Beijing success, Sushil angered the establishment when he was disqualified from the Asian Championships at Pattaya, Thailand, last year for being overweight.

On his part, the wrestler also did not endear himself to many when he criticised his omission from the national honours’ list. The Pattaya episode and the sports ministry’s subsequent warning seem to have had a positive impact on the wrestler as he has been on a winning march since then, taking the German Grand Prix title last year besides pocketing his maiden Asian crown in New Delhi earlier this year with spectacular performances.

His latest success underscores Sushil’s mental and physical strength as he overcame a clutch of strong opponents before towering over Russia’s Alan Gogaev in the final of the 66 kg category, winning five bouts in one day. The gold medal could not have come at a better time for Indian wrestling, struggling as it is to cope with charges of doping by some prominent competitors, including Arjuna award winner Rajiv Tomar, in the build up to next month’s Commonwealth Games.

Sushil has done his bit to raise the profile of the event, which is also in the eye of a corruption storm. In the last lap to the opening ceremony on October 3, it was high time sport got its share of the limelight and Sushil’s success, perhaps, will turn the attention on the men and women who really make the Games, instead of those who specialise in self-aggrandisement.

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