Everyone expected Beijing Olympic Games bronze medallist Sushil Kumar to defend his title at the 2011 World Championship. But after the grappler crashed out in the first round and then failed to qualify for the London Olympics at the Asian qualification event last month, critics put the blame for the defeats on his marriage.
On Friday, after making it to his third successive Olympics, the wrestler made his critics eat humble pie.
"Wrestling has always been my priority, and I have never lost focus," said Sushil after sealing an Olympic berth at the ongoing qualifiers in China. "The morning after I won bronze in Beijing, I had a training session as I had to compete against a Pakistani wrestler in a domestic tournament in India. Even when I was attending numerous functions after winning the Olympic medal, I made sure that I took time out for my training schedule. So, nobody can doubt my commitment to the sport," said Sushil.
Before creating history by winning the world title in 2010, Sushil had overshot his weight limit (66kg) at the Asian Championship and had to face criticism. "No player takes the field with the aim to lose," said Sushil. "Bad phases are part and parcel of a player's life, so it's not a big deal."
Sushil booked his ticket to London after defeating Ukraine's Andriy Kvyatkovskyy 3-1 in the semifinal. He went on to win the title by outclassing Georgia's Otar Tushishvilli 3-0. Both finalists got quota places.
With Sushil making it to London, all three Indians, who won medals in Beijing, will be looking for an encore. Shooter Abhinav Bindra and boxer Vijender Singh booked their berths earlier.
"I was hoping to qualify for the Olympics at the earlier tournament, but couldn't due to a shoulder injury. Before going to China, I was confident of making it. Now that I've done it, my focus will be on the Games. If all goes well, I will better my Beijing performance," said Sushil.