Sushil wrestles his way through Repechage for a historic bronze (Wrestling, Overall Lead)

August 20th, 2008 - 9:31 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 20 (IANS) As India’s interest in the Olympics seemed to wane after Abhinav Bindra’s gold medal, diminutive Sushil Kumar gave the contingent here an unexpected boost with his bronze medal in the men’s 66 kg freestyle competition.Sushil beat Kazakhstan’s Leonid Spiridonov in the last of the Repechage bouts for a bronze medal. He received his medal from one of the greatest athletes pole-vaulter Sergei Bubka.

Within minutes of receiving the result, his native village Boprala in West Delhi’s Najafgarh exploded into frenzy celebrations and cash awards were announced. By late evening it all toted up to Rs. 17 million as state chief ministers and union ministers competed with each other to raise the bar.

It was the first time that two bronze medals were being awarded in wrestling through a system of Repechage contests. Thus far only one bronze medal was given with the classification being done on the basis of technical points. Spiridonov, incidentally had lost out on the bronze on that account in 2004 at Athens in the same category and ended fourth.

Asked if he came expecting a medal, Sushil shot back: “Of course. That’s why we all compete. Others may not have expected a medal from us, but we, the coaches and wrestlers, did,”

On the loss in the morning, Sushil was candid, “I lost the bout, but I thought I would have a chance against him (Stadnik).”

Meanwhile, in the gold medal match, Turkish wrestler, Ramazan Shahin beat Stadnik on points. Shahin, a gold medallist at the 2007 World Championships and the 2008 European winner, thus completed his hat-trick by adding an Olympic gold medal to his trophy chest.

Sushil’s win also threw light on the format of the competition and the system of Repechage contests.

In wrestling, each round, called a period, must have a winner. In case of equal points, a draw decides which wrestler will get the advantage of the ‘hold’ or a ‘clinch’ by a draw and must score a point in the half minute period. The wrestler scores a technical point or in case of the defender ’surviving’ the hold in the extra 30 second period, is declared winner of the period.

The wrestler winning more number of rounds — out of three — is declared the winner.

In Sushil’s case, he won the first round 2-1, but lost the second 0-1 on extra time. In the third, both were again level, and in the extra 30-second period, the Kazakh Spiridonov was once again lucky in the draw and got the hold, which is normally considered an advantage.

But Sushil upset the calculation to turn the tables on the Kazkh and scored the vital point to grab the bronze.

Sushil’s fortunes in the morning had been consigned to the dustbin, after a first round lose. But he rose like a Phoenix from the Ashes, as it were, to record three
breathtaking wins in Repechage contests against all odds.

Losing to Ukrainian Andriy Stadnik in the morning, the Indian’s slender hopes hinged on the former’s subsequent results. An hour and 40 minutes after his loss, Sushil and the Indian camp received a reprieve and an extra lease of life in the form of a berth into the Repechage as the Ukrainian made the final.

As per the rules of the discipline, all wrestlers losing to the eventual finalists move into the Repachage rounds and then fight their way through for the two bronze medals, that are available.

In each of the three Repachage bouts, Sushil won 3-1 on points.

In the first Repachage round, Sushil beat American Doug Schwab, the World No. 5, and then in the second round he moved past Albert Batyrov of Belarus for a final fight against Spiridonov, who was fourth at the last Olympic Games.

In the last and final Repachage bout against Spiridonov, Sushil after being tied 2-2 seemed to be unlucky when his rival drew the lot for a ‘hold’ to break the tie. But Sushil defied the normal odds and outduelled Spiridonov for a technical point and emerged victorious as the crowd and the coaches in his red corner burst in jubilation.

Sushil himself looked dazed for a second — having fought three bouts in less than 75 minutes — and then when realization dawned on him, he hugged his coach, P.P. Sondhi and then clambered onto the stands to hug his mentor, Satpal Singh, the 1982 Asian Games winner, who also competed at the 1972 Olympics in Munich.

It was India’s second medal of the Games and its first since 1952 in wrestling. It is also only the second time — the first being 1952 — that India has won more than one medal at a single Games.

In the morning, the Indian coach P.P.Sondhi after Sushil’s loss said, “His (Sushil’s) opponent was far superior, but I have no regrets with Sushil’s show. In the early part of the round, his opponent was doing much better than him. So this was in his mind in the last period, too. Frankly, Stadnik was just a better wrestler.”

The luck of the draw gave Sushil a bye in the first round, giving him a start straightaway in the quarter-finals while Standnik had to beat 2007 World Number 5 American Doug Schwab in the round of 16 to move further.

Sharing the bronze with Sushil, was Otar Tushishvili of Georgia, a World championships silver medal in 2006 and bronze medallist in 2005 and 2007.

Behind Sushil was fifth placed Genadry Garzn of Cuba, a bronze in the 2005 and 2006 World Championships and the gold medal winner at the 2008 Pan American Championships.

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