Bulgaria's Anatolie Ilarionovitch Guidea (R) wrestles India's Yogeshwar Dutt in their Men's 60kg Freestyle qualification match during the wrestling event of the London 2012 Olympic Games. AFP/Marwan Naamani
Living a childhood dream that was almost derailed due to injuries, wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt said his body had given up but his spirit kept him going as he fought three opponents in less than an hour to clinch a bronze medal in the Olympic Games in London.
"I dedicate this win to all my countrymen, my coaches who also worked equally hard and my well-wishers. Without them this could not have been possible," said the 60kg freestyle wrestler who fought five opponents during the day, including three in the repechage in close succession, to clinch the medal.
The 29-year-old, who also injured his eye during the bouts, displayed stupendous power and stamina right through the day before prevailing over North Korea's Ri Jong Myong 3-1 in the third round of repechage. He thus became the third Indian to win an Olympic medal in wrestling after KD Jadhav (1952) and Sushil Kumar (2008).
"My group was very tough and I had to fight with the world champion. I wanted to win and I had practised a lot for it. I am happy that I could achieve my dream of winning a medal," he said.
"I was very down after I lost in the morning, but when I got the chance to compete in the repechage the whole country wanted a medal from me," he said.
"I didn't want to lose this occasion - God has been very kind to me."
Reflecting on his bout against Myong, Yogeshwar said, "I used the technique of 'fitele' (leg-twisting technique) and I gained five points, that gave me the victory. I am happy that it worked for me."
In the third and final round against Myong, Yogeshwar pulled off a stunning 'fitele', a term used by wrestlers when they twirl their opponent on their back a few times with great speed, to score match-winning six technical points.
It was a fitting finale to a day in which his fitness and grit came through brightly.
Yogeshwar conceded that he was quite tired but his single-minded pursuit of the medal helped him overcome the fatigue of fighting three opponents in less than an hour.
"My first round was tough, then I faced the world champion (Besik KuduKhov of Russia), then afterwards in the repechage, the silver medallist (Franklin Gomes Matos of Puerto Rico), then it was the Iranian (Masoud Esmaeilpoorjouybar) who I have faced a lot, so I was very tired when I got to the bronze-medal match. But one thing that kept driving me - I have to win this medal for the country."
Yogeshwar provided a late boost to India's medal collection in the Games which now stands at an unprecedented five -- one silver and four bronze.
With Yogeshwar's bronze, India have so far achieved their best medal tally in the history of the Games, quite an improvement in numbers on the one gold and two bronze medals the country bagged in the Beijing edition.
Shooter Vijay Kumar has fetched a silver, while shuttler Saina Nehwal, shooter Gagan Narang and five-time world champion woman boxer M C Mary Kom had won bronze for the country in the ongoing edition.
"It is a dream come true to win an Olympic medal. I have worked very hard for it, and I can't describe how I am feeling now. It is a very special moment for me," a beaming Yogeshwar said after his effort.
"I sacrificed a lot and have worked for this for the last 21 years. Since my childhood I always wanted to win an Olympic medal, and now I have achieved that dream," he added.
Yogeshwar hurt his eye in the pre-quarter final against the Russian but did not allow the injury to hamper his performance. His eyes were swollen and he had difficulty in sighting with the left eye.
"I got hurt in the earlier round, but in the Olympics we can't worry about these kind of injuries. We have to get out and fight," he explained.