Sushil Kumar (File Photo)
Has the popularity and recognition of wrestling increased since the 2008 Beijing Olympics?
When I started, wrestling was not as popular a sport as it is now. It was popular in the rural areas and in villages, wrestlers used to be quite well known. But now people in cities have started to recognise us as well. And it is heartening to see that the sport has flourished, especially after my 2008 Beijing Games medal.
Delhi seems to have emerged as the hub of wrestling in India. What's your take on that?
Delhi, of late, has produced many champions - be it Asian, world or Olympic. Yogeshwar Dutt, who belongs to Haryana, used to practice here at the Chhatrasal Stadium. That is also the place where I trained. The place is a little cramped but enough to produce champions. The government has noticed our problems and has begun paying attention, which is good for the sport. And it's not just the akhada in Chhatrasal Stadium which breeds good wrestlers. There are many other akhadas across the city which boasts of good talent. All they need is direction, which only a good coach can give.
Does the wrestling infrastructure in Delhi need improvement for producing world-class sportsmen?
In the last five years or so, especially after I won the Olympic bronze in Beijing, things have seen a definite improvement. We are being given special attention; our diet has also improved. Even the living standard in our hostels has improved.
But, as always, there is scope for improvement. As far as our training facilities in national camps are concerned, they are among the best in the world. Our gym is also world-class. What the government should be concentrating on is our support staff. Even at the Olympics, we were short of masseurs and physios. They are integral to our success.
(With inputs from sports desk)