Two boys who met at Satpal Akhara, near Chhatrasaal in Delhi, and forged a bond that has carried them to Olympian heights. Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are childhood friends who fed off each other to sustain and actuate their medal dreams.
File photo of Yogeshwar Dutt (left) and Sushil Kumar.
As Sushil walked off after his semifinal bout,
it was Yogeshwar's arm around his shoulders supporting him. He listened as Yogeshwar seemed to explain the pros and cons of the fight. Before the bout for gold, according to the support staff, it was Yogeshwar who sat with his friend and discussed strategy as to just how the Japanese could be tamed.
Long years of association have seen the two evolve a monosyllabic manner of speech that only the other can follow in entirety. Their banter between the bouts — interspersed with laughs — was essential for keeping Sushil relaxed and ready to go. The two have always kept cracking jokes which are undecipherable to the rest listening in. The Indian camp was concerned about Sushil's upset stomach even as Yogeshwar did his best to distract him from the discomfort and focus on the upcoming bout.
After the Beijing Games, where Yogeshwar had narrowly missed a medal, things could have gone sour between the two friends. The support staff was wondering how Sushil's medal would change the equation between the two but the scepticism turned to smiles when Sushil kept paying respect to Yogeshwar before each grapple and the latter responding in kind — their mock take on the tradition of Indian wrestling which shows regard for the others ability.
After all they have been doing it for nearly 15 years and a medal did not mean their little games would be in any way affected.
Since Beijing both have been training together at the Sports Authority of India centre at Sonepat and stay in adjoining rooms. They have to be on the same side whenever some recreational football or any other team sport is played. Both hate losing and the juniors complain that they keep extending the time slot for the game till they manage to get ahead into the lead.
In fact, the trainers try to keep the two apart during their scheduled rest periods for neither will let the other sleep, instead they have been known to keep horsing around like young boys for extended periods of time.
Brothers in arms
So close are the two that each has been known to commit for the other even when it comes to exhibition matches and public appearances. Inseparable at camps, they have the boisterous back-slapping relationship of two men who are as close as brothers. Their outlook towards life is similar and basic, rooted in the age-old wrestling traditions. Both tout the same maxim: Aadmi jubaan aur langot ka pucca hona chahiye (A man should stay true to his word and marital bed).
Sushil inhabits room number 113 in the SAI Hostel at Sonepat. A wit had once told pehalwanji that it may not prove lucky to retain his medal at London. Sushil just went one ahead to bust that particular myth.