Sushil Kumar (in red) is declared winner as Turkey's Ramazan Sahin looks on, in their Men's 66kg Freestyle 1/8 Finals match at the Olympic Games in London. PTI/Manvender Vashist
Sachin Tendulkar lauded his dedication while Virender Sehwag was in awe of his "mental strength" as India's star cricketers gave a collective round of applause to wrestler Sushil Kumar for clinching a silver medal at the just-concluded London Olympics.
Sushil, who had bagged a bronze in the 2008 Beijing Games, became the first Indian athlete to notch up back-to-back Olympic medals with silver on the final day of competitions in London yesterday.
"Sushil has done us proud by winning India its second silver medal. We are proud of his dedication, commitment and effort. Well done Sushil!!" Tweeted Tendulkar.
India's Sushil Kumar celebrates win against Kazakistan Akzhurek Tanatarov in their Men's 66kg Freestyle Semifinal match at the Olympic Games in London on Sunday. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist
"Sushil showed the size of his heart today and his mental strength of a world champion. Najafgarh ka Sher. Extremely proud of you bhai :)," added Sehwag, a friend of the unassuming Delhi wrestler who competes in the 66kg freestyle event.
Another star cricketer who congratulated Sushil was Yuvraj Singh, who will return to international action in September's Twenty20 World Cup after recovering from a rare germ cell cancer.
ndia's Sushil Kumar (in blue) wrestles with Uzbikistan lkhtiyor Navruzov in their Men's 66kg Freestyle Quaterfinal match at the Olympic Games in London on Sunday. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist
"Congratulations to sushil kumar!! First indian to win back to back individual medals! a hallmark of a great athlete!!" he said.
Joining Yuvraj was Suresh Raina, who said, "Sushil's silver is no less than Gold. What a fighter! Heard he was dehydrated before his fight. Great feat to win at consecutive Olympics."
The 29-year-old Sushil, who was India's flagbearer in the opening ceremony, lost to Japanese Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the gold-medal bout.
With the addition of Sushil's silver medal, India completed their engagements in the 30th edition of the Olympics with a record haul of six medals -- two silver and four bronze -- but the gold medal could not be won by anyone.
In Beijing, India had won one gold and two bronze medals.
Sushil came into prominence after winning the World Cadet Games in Poland in 1998. This was soon followed by the Asian Junior Wrestling Championship in 2000 and the Arjuna Award in 2007.
He became a household name by coming out of nowhere and landing India a bronze at the Beijing Games. It was a testament to his mettle that he was given the chance to be the coveted flag-bearer of the Indian contingent at the opening ceremony of the London Games.
From training in mud pits to sleeping with 20 other boys, it was a giant leap for the grappler.
He started training at the Chhatrasal Stadium's akhada under the guidance of pehalwans Yashvir and Ramphal and later by Arjuna awardee Mahabali Satpal Singh and then at the Railways camp by coach Gyan Singh.
Sushil credits his 'father figure' Satpal, under whom he has trained for 13 years, as someone who has inculcated in him discipline and dedication.
Sushil created history when he became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the FILA 2010 World Wrestling Championships held in Moscow on September 12, 2010.
Sushil struggled with a series of injuries in the past year and disappointments in various international events. He finally qualified for the London Games when he outclassed 2008 Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Tushishvili Otar 3-0 on his way to a gold medal at the World qualifying tournament in Taiyuan (China) in April 2012.
India's Sushil Kumar with Silver medal after Men's 66kg Freestyle Semifinal match at the Olympic Games in London on Sunday. PTI Photo by Manvender Vashist(PTI8_12_2012_000121B)
For the bronze medal at 2008 Beijing Olympics, Sushil was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India's highest sporting honour.
Four years ago, he changed the face of wrestling in the country and today he has made India a force to reckon with in the game of wrestling.