Sushil Kumar celebrates after winning against Akzhurek Tanatarov of Kazakhstan in their Men's 66kg Freestyle Semifinal match at the Olympic Games in London. PTI/Manvender Vashist
Sushil Kumar scripted history by becoming the first-ever Indian to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals with a silver at the London Games but his father reckons that if his son had better sparring partners, he could have done better.
"He does not have people of his class to practice with. It was disappointing that he could not lay his hands on an Olympic gold medal but nevertheless it's a historic achievement. I think that lack of world-class training robbed him of his chances. I was expecting a gold from him," said Sushil's father Diwan Singh.
A Beijing Games bronze medallist, Sushil settled for a silver in the 66kg free style category after being outclassed by Japanese Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu 3-1 in the gold medal bout.
It was India's third wrestling medal in Olympic history with KD Jadhav (1952) and Yogeshwar Dutt (2012) being the previous winners.
Asked about Sushil's future plans, his father said, "It all depends on him whether he wants to continue or not. We will not tell him anything."
Sushil's long-time friend and fellow grappler, Yogeshwar Dutt, who won a bronze medal in the 60kg freestyle category, said it would have been a great sight had Sushil won a yellow metal.
"It was disappointing as we all had pinned our hopes on him (for a gold). Still, a silver medal is a great achievement and we all are proud of him," said Yogeshwar.
Beijing Games bronze medallist, Vijender Singh, who failed to replicate his epoch-making 2008 feat after being knocked out in the quarterfinals of 75kg category, also lavished praise on the grappler.
"He managed to do what we failed to achieve in the men's boxing. It's a remarkable achievement and we are all proud of him. For him to continue in such form for eight years is an extraordinary feat," he said.
"To bring a second medal after winning the first is a difficult task. He has managed to do it with his hard work and dedication," said Vijender.
Acknowledging the efforts of Sushil, ace shuttler and London Games bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, said, "I know how much pressure he had to endure being one of the contenders to win a medal here. Sushil gave his best in the final even though he was injured. Wrestling is not an easy sport, it shows how much he has practiced and worked hard."
Saina said now there was a change in attitude of the Indian sports person towards Olympic sports.
"We have started believing in ourselves. All the athletes feel that they can compete and perform at the highest level."
The 22-year-old Hyderabadi girl said that Sushil's stupendous effort will inspire her and others to go one step further and bag the coveted gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Wrestling Federation of India General Secretary, Raj Singh informed that Sushil was suffering from dehydration and dysentery after his semi-final bout, which put paid to his hopes of winning a historic gold.
"He vomited after eating something after his semifinal bout. He complained of dehydration and dysentery and could not put up a fight in the final round. Nevertheless, it's a great achievement and the wrestling fraternity is proud of him," he said.
Sushil's coach and father-in-law, Satpal said that his silver medal will change the face of the game in the country.
"As a coach, what else do you need. He has made the entire nation proud. I am very happy for him and his medal will change the profile of the sport in India.
"I was expecting a gold but due to a neck injury, he couldn't fetch it. After the Beijing Olympics, he had told me that in London he will change the colour of the medal and he did so. May be, he'll bring a gold from the 2016 Rio Olympics," said Satpal.
SAIL chairman CS Verma also congratulated Sushil and said, "We have been sponsoring for him for a long time and we will keep on doing that. Hope he brings many more laurels to the country."