We are as good as any other wrestlers in the world, says Sushil (Interview)

August 24th, 2008 - 2:11 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Aug 24 (IANS) Shy, unassuming and almost self-effacing and yet very confident, is how one can describe wrestler Sushil Kumar, who till 15 minutes before he won the bronze medal was not on the minds of the Indian media.Having lost his opening bout in the morning, Sushil had been dismissed by large sections of the media as having been ‘ousted’, ‘eliminated’ and more.

Yet, an hour later Sushil got a reprieve as Ukrainian Andriy Stadnik, who beat him reached the finals. Stadnik’s entry into the gold medal round, gave Sushil a passage into the Repechage, which meant he along with all those who had lost to the two finalists would fight for the bronze medal.

Still the media missed him out till he won the first and then the second Repechage bouts. That put him within one bout of a medal and then the media rushed in. Only a few reporters were present to see his bronze medal match.

Minutes later, Sushil confounded all by emerging a close winner and India’s first wrestling medallist since Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav’s bronze winning feat in 1952.

In between a host of functions, Sushil Kumar agreed to an exclusive interview with IANS.

1.When you came to the Olympics, did you consider yourself a medal hope?

Of course. Others may not have thought so, but we felt we had a chance. Yogeshwar Dutt was unlucky to lose a close bout and I also could have won my first round but then I was lucky and I got into Repechage bouts as the Ukrainian reached the final.

2. After you lost your first bout in the morning, when did you know you were still in the competition?

After I lost in the morning, we just waited for the next results, because I knew if the Ukrainian wrestler reached final, I would get another chance. That is what happened, but still I had a tough bout against the American wrestler (Doug Schwabe).

Beating the next wrestler from Belarus (Albert Batirov) was also tough, but by now I was feeling more confident. Then you saw what happened in the last. It was very close. I even lost advantage when he (Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan) won the draw and got the hold. But I had to defend and try and win, which I did.

3. What have been your main hurdles at these Games and before them?

By and large what we wrestlers need is a good diet and then good recovery. The diet ensures strength and stamina and the recovery comes from massages between bouts and after them to relax the muscles and body.

But here we did not have one for wrestling. Our team manager, Kartar Singh ji, who is two time Asian Games gold medallist, acted as the masseur for me. I felt uncomfortable, because he is so senior and we all respect him, but he said he was doing it for us and wrestling. And it helped.

When I went for the fourth bout of the day and my third in just over an hour, I was really tired and there was hardly any time to relax in between. I badly needed the rubbing and massaging. He (Kartar) did it for me.

4. What is the difference between Indian and foreign wrestlers, who keep winning medals?

There is no difference. There is little difference between our techniques. Where we lose is the facilities. If we have more facilities and care, we can get gold medals. Mere pe vishwas rakh, gold jeetna mushkil nahin hain. Mehnat aur facility ki zaroorat hai. (Trust me, winning gold is not difficult. Hardwork and facilities are what we need).

5. There has been so much celebration around you. But how did you to celebrate?

After finishing, I just wanted to eat a big meal. In the days before the bout, we are very strict about diet. We generally go on a fast to ensure we are not overweight. Even an extra glass of water can become a problem. There are days when we miss meals because we need to keep within our weight category.

6. How did you spend the morning after the medal?

As usual. I wake up early and then offer prayers to Bajrang Bali like most wrestlers. And then I eat breakfast, which is milk and fruits. Rest of the day I was meeting other members of the contingent and media for interviews.

7. So, what do you eat normally?

I eat a lot of fruit as I am a vegetarian and I drink milk. All this talk about drinking gallons of milk or lot of meat and food is a myth. Anyway I am a vegetarian, and we need to watch our weight very carefully.

8. Were you being flooded with calls in Beijing soon after the medal?

I don’t have a mobile phone. My coach has it, so it does not distract me. Even in Delhi I avoid a mobile. But I did speak to my father through a TV Channel, which arranged my speaking with him. I have not spoken to my mother, which I will when I get back to India. I know everybody is happy and I am happy that I could get a medal for the country.

9. Are you looking to all the rewards, promotions and all that has been promised, including from the Railways?

My coaches and some colleagues have been telling me all that. I am happy about it, but I will wait till I get that.

10. A lot of people have helped you on way to the medal. Who would they be?

Most prominent is my father, who would travel everyday long distances to ensure milk for me in the morning. Whether it was raining or a hot day or whatever the weather, he always used to be there. And he would encourage me all the time. He wanted a gold, but he is still happy with this medal. I will try for more.

My coaches have been my family, too. Sat Pal ji is my guru and I have dedicated my medal to him. Others like Kartar Singh ji and my first coach Yashvir sir have all helped me in a big way.

11. How much of Beijing have you seen?

Nothing. I don’t go out sight-seeing. Usually we train and rest. But maybe I will buy few things for my family and friends.

12. Now that you are an eligible bachelor in Najafgarh, any marriage plans?

I don’t decide that. My parents and elders in the family will decide all that. That’s the way it is in our family.

13. You are from Najafgarh and there is another celebrity sportsman, Virender Sehwag, from the same area. Have you met him?

Only once in a function, where we were both felicitated. That was the only meeting.

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