Sushil’s Olympic bronze inspires a young generation (Lead)

August 21st, 2008 - 9:52 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 21 (IANS) Chattarasal Stadium has an imposing look, but the rooms where India’s promising grapplers stay, while training at the wrestling centre, have a dingy appearance.There are 70 healthy young men from the villages of Haryana, Punjab, Delhi and even as far as Hyderabad, are all cooped up in six rooms in a basement. The beds are laid haphazardly and the clothes strewn and hanging all over. Then their good old trunks make the place a dungeon.

It is anything but a comfortable living place. Their awards and trophies are stacked in the coach’s room as an unwanted stuff.

All this may sound depressing, but they are not complaining. In fact, that’s how these wrestlers want to be - down to earth. One of these bright young faces will be returning here with a Olympic bronze medal. Unmindful of the conditions they will all celebrate and even tell you that champions come from such places.

Sushil Kumar has given them a reason to keep grappling with the hard realities of life. All they know is that they have a role model in Sushil and they have a future.

Sixteen-year-old Devi Singh and his brother Kishan, four years younger to him, came here from Dulpet in Hyderabad. Since 2004, their life has revolved around wrestling. Their father, a sculptor, and mother, a maidservant, never wanted their sons to live so far away with no money to support their sons.

“They want us to win a medal for India like Sushil. I called up home last night and my parents said that we too want you to achieve success in wrestling. We all look up to Sushil bhaiya and his win has given us reason to work hard and achieve what he has done for the country,” says Devi.

Devi and Kishan got interested in wrestling as they went to a nearby ‘Dangal’ (contest) in Dulpet.

“We started competing and then we came here to participate in one championship. We decided to take admission here because this is the best place to learn wrestling in the country. It was very difficult for our parents at first.”

“But now they have taken it in their stride. Our parents are happy with our wrestling. We go home once in a while. My younger brother has gone home to help my father in making Ganesha idols. It is time for us to earn some money and one of us has to be at home to help my father,” says Devi.

Devi is India’s future talent, who the country simply cannot afford to lose, says coach Yashvir Singh.

He has twice won gold in National School Championship in 2006 and 2007, National Rural Championships in 2006 and Cadet Nationals in 2007.

“My brother is the youngest here and he too has won the school championships,” says Devi with a glint in his eyes.

“Our parents send us around Rs 2500 every month and we somehow manage with it. We contribute around Rs 1000 for the food. The rest of the facilities are free. We got Rs 1000 as scholarship after winning the school games and that helped us a lot. We send some money to home also,” says Devi, who has also taken time from his gruelling training to go to a nearby school in Model Town.

Yashvir, one of the three coaches looking after the wards, says that most of the wrestlers come from poor background and some quit the sports after getting government jobs.

“Most of them are from the villages in the northern part of the country. They learn wrestling in Akharas (wreslting dens) and then come here. They all are very enthusiastic about the sport,” he says.

“Sushil’s win will surely raise the profile of the sport. We need to have an indoor hall here for practice and now we are hopeful that it will come up.”

Arvind, 19, who hails from Jhajjar in Haryana and a close friend of Sushil, says that they all were eagerly waiting for him to arrive.

“I spoke to him. He is very happy and so are we. Our parents will not say us to give up the sport.”

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