With Olympic medal, village hopes wrestling gets new life

August 26th, 2008 - 4:49 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Aug 26 (IANS) Village elders and former ‘pehelwans’ (wrestlers) of Bapraula village on the edge of the national capital are hoping that the Olympic bronze medal for wrestling won by fellow villager Sushil Kumar would rejuvenate the dying sport.“The younger generation’s interest in wrestling has been declining. Cricket has ruined the fate of other sports,” said septuagenarian Munshi Ram, who in his heydays had won many ‘dangals’ (wrestling tournaments).

“Bachon ke shauk badal gaye hain. Hum log sharir banate the aur aajkal ke naujawan gaadi aur kapdon mein fansey hue hain (The hobbies of the youth have changed. We people were into body-building but these kids want money and cars),” rued Ram, who despite his age is a strongly built man.

A group of elderly people, sitting across the road overlooking celebrations of Sushil’s homecoming, reminisced the glorious wrestling past of the village.

“During our time there used to be 100 wrestlers in our village. But now hardly anybody takes up the sport,” Sushil’s grandfather Chaudhary Mir Singh told IANS.

In fact Sushil’s two younger brothers, Amarjit and Manjit, have not taken up wrestling, a sport practiced by their father and grandfather.

“The administration and government need to provide financial and infrastructure facilities to the young aspirants. There is only a sports ground at the primary school here, but no coach,” Ram said.

The apathy of the authorities is apparent from the mice-infested room that Sushil shared with four other burly wrestlers in Chhatrasal Stadium, where he underwent his coaching in the sport. Had it not been for his family’s help and encouragement, Sushil would not have been able to get an Olympic bronze medal, the country’s first wrestling medal after 56 years.

“What Sushil is today is due to his family. His grandfather used to purchase five litres of milk daily for him. His other dietary needs like ghee (butter) were met by the family,” said Jai Singh, Sushil’s uncle.

The village’s association with wrestling is now part of its folklore.

“During the pre-independence period, our area had a wrestler who fought with a tiger and tore it apart. When I was young I could lift a 60 kg weight with one hand,” said Singh. At 81, his gait and sturdy build towering over six feet, seems to easily substantiate his claim.

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