For the last couple of years, wrestling has been hogging the headlines. Be it the World Championship, Commonwealth, Asian or Olympics Games, the triumphs of our wrestlers have given the game great mileage.
Now, when Indian wrestlers are on the verge of becoming a force to reckon
with, this sudden development has brought our world crashing down.
What I am today, in terms of recognition and fame, is not because I am a class wrestler, but because I was able to win an Olympic medal for the country. So, you can judge what wrestling will be without the Olympics.
When I started out, the mindset of pursuers of the sport was limited to participating in the Olympics and they were happy to be known as Olympians. Now, even a first-timer eyes an Olympic medal, that too gold.
Looking the way our standards are improving, I can guarantee that in coming times an Indian will be the favourite to win a medal in the Quadrennial Games.
If the sport makes an exit from the 2020 Olympics, I wish it doesn't happen, Indian wrestling will be among the worst affected. Without bigger targets to achieve, standards will come down.
Olympic medallists are larger-than-life figures in India, and as a sportsperson, winning an Olympic medal is the ultimate dream we cherish.
Before the Beijing triumph I never knew how big an achievement this is for Indians. I never expected the welcome after landing at the Indira Gandhi Airport.
At that time, I realised that I had not only made the wrestling fraternity proud, the medal had also instilled a sense of achievement in a billion Indians.
Now, countrymen expect nothing less than an Olympic medal, and because of this change in trend we were able to win six medals at the London Olympics.
In 2016, it will be better than London and if wrestling is there in 2020, we will have an extraordinary haul. Wrestling has always been an Olympic sport and is popular the world over.
People think there isn't enough money involved, but in America, even junior wrestlers have several sponsors. Universities there bear training costs and grapplers have good living standards.
In India, the status of a wrestler is like an open book. I can't think of a reason why the IOC has dropped it from the Olympic programme.
If by chance the sport has not been meeting the standards set by the IOC, why should wrestlers, especially Indians, be made to suffer.
I hope this development is like a bad dream and the young crop can keep dreaming of Olympic glory. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope September will bring good news.
The writer is the only Indian to win two Olympic medals in individual events
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