Sushil provides the perfect morale-booster

Sushil, who gave a fillip to the sport by winning the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympic Games, won the gold in the freestyle 66kg category in Moscow, which lifted the morale of his team-mates undergoing training at a camp in Sonapet for the Delhi meet. “My Beijing medal and now the World Championship win have made my team-mates believe that they can also win at big meets. They all were short of confidence after the doping incident. But my victory in Moscow helped them regain their composure,” said Sushil.

Indian wrestlers have a great record at the Games and they are expected to swell the medals tally at home. The discipline, which was not part of the 2006 Melbourne Games, has fetched India a total of 23 gold, 24 silver and 11 bronze medals.

The 27-year-old Sushil expressed the confidence that young wrestlers will deliver at the Delhi meet. “We will win more than ten medals. Our young wrestlers are really good enough to beat wrestlers from top countries like Canada and England,” Sushil said.

The hosts’ chances received a major blow when four key members of the CWG squad tested positive for banned substance methylhexaneamine earlier this month. “The dope issue has hit us at the wrong time. Our wrestlers were working hard for the Commonwealth Games, then suddenly everybody was down. But Sushil's World title has boosted the confidence of the 21 wrestlers in the camp. Now, our aim is to win at least five gold,” said national wrestling coach Jagmender Singh.

However, the Wrestling Federation of India replaced the dope-tainted wrestlers in quick time and made it clear that they would stick with the replacements even if the tainted wrestlers come up clear after the hearing.

The tainted wrestlers might be let off with a warning but it seems almost impossible for them to find a place in the squad. “The wrestlers who replaced them are good enough to win medals. We are blessed with some talented wrestlers,” Jagmender added.

Apart from Sushil (66kg), India’s other medal hope in the freestyle category is Yogeshwar Dutt (60kg). Anil Kumar (55kg) and 2002 CWG silver medallist Anuj Kumar (84kg) hold the key to the hosts’ chances in the Greco-Roman category. “Sushil is an inspiration to all of us. Our training is going on in full swing, I am confident of winning gold here,” said Yogeshwar.

Delhi 2010 will feature 14 (seven freestyle and seven Greco-Roman) weight categories for men and seven freestyle weight categories for women. The event will be held at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex from October 5 to 10.

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