Yogeshwar Dutt with his bronze medal during the medal ceremony of Men's 60kg Freestyle wrestling at the Olympic Games in London. PTI/Manvender Vashist
Bruised but still having the burning desire to win a medal. This sums up the performance of Yogeshwar Dutt, who, despite a badly swollen eye, fought three repechage bouts to win an Olympic bronze on Saturday.
The medal in the 60kg category firmly tucked in his pocket, the Sonepat-born grappler was the happiest man. And it was not just because he had won the medal; it was also because he was able to fulfill his late father's wish.
Before his father expired on August 3, 2006, he had expressed the wish that he wanted Yogeshwar to win a medal at the Olympics.
"I am very happy today. I have fulfilled my father's wish. It is a dream come true," said the grappler, who defeated North Korea's RI Jim for bronze.
"At the Beijing Olympics, the medal slipped out of my hands, and for four long years the memories have haunted me. This time around, I was confident of returning home with a medal…I've done it," he added.
After losing the pre-quarterfinal bout to Russia's B Kudukhov, the route to the final was firmly shut on the Indian. But luck was on his side on Saturday as the Russian to whom Yogeshwar lost made it to the final and the Indian got a chance to play the repechage round for bronze.
This time he didn't let the opportunity go abegging. After KD Jadhav (1952 Helsinki) and Sushil Kumar (2008 Beijing), Yogeshwar becomes the third Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal. "I was eyeing the gold, but, somehow, I lost to the Russian and I started feeling that it was end of the road for me. But when I got the entry into the repechage round, I was confident I would not let go of this opportunity," said Yogeshwar.
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In the first repechage bout, he defeated Franklin Gomez Matos of Puerto Rico 3-0. Both the rounds were scoreless and had to be decided on the clinch. On both occasions, Yogeshwar got the advantage and he made no mistake to proceed further. In the second bout, he defeated Iran's Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybar on points.
In the qualification round, Yogeshwar defeated Bulgaria's AI Guidea 7-3.
Yogeshwar's achievement was all the more creditable considering that he was in the toughest pool. The Bulgarian whom he beat in the first round was an Olympic medallist and a former world champion, while the Russian who beat him is a four-time world champion.
"It was a very tough pool. All the world and Olympic medallists were in my pool," said Yogeshwar. A terribly swollen right eye after his pre-quarter bout against the Russian did not deter the India to go all out in the repechage round.”
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Dutt began brightly by defeating Bulgaria's Illarionovictch Anatolie Guidea on points (3-1) but lost the second round bout to Russia's Besik Kudukhov 0-3, the eventual silver medallist. With his victor reaching the final, Dutt got a second chance which he didn't let go of. Here’s how he fared in the repechage:
1st 3-0: In the repechage first round, Dutt had the measure of Puerto Rico's Franklin Gomez Matos on points (3-0), never really looking in any danger of losing.
2nd 3-1: His next opponent, Iran's Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybari was technically more adept, but the Indian steadily gained ground to clinch it 3-1.
3rd 3-1: Although forced to take the mat for the third bout in an hour, Dutt kept his speedy North Korean opponent Jong Myong Ri at bay and finally managed a thrilling 'clinch', repeatedly flipping him to seal victory (3-1) and the medal.