The Indian Olympic story just fell short of going golden on the final day of the London Games.
Sushil Kumar fought valiantly, but was far too dehydrated to prevail against his much swifter Japanese opponent Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu. He still ended up earning India its second silver of these Games. And, he became the first Indian to win two individual Olympic medals.
Perhaps the most heart-wrenching bit was just how inconsolable the 29-year-old was after the loss.
“I wanted that the national anthem should be heard on the Olympic stage once again. I am sorry I fell short,” he said after his bout, alluding to the fact that only the gold winner gets his anthem played.
This medal took India’s tally to its best ever of six medals. Though we are still only at 55th position in the overall tally and way behind our neighbour China which sits pretty at second with its 87-medal haul, including 38 gold, it is still a cause to celebrate.
For, this proves that with extensive government funding and growing infrastructure India has the talent to deliver in individual sport.
Be it Abhinav Bindra's grace after his loss or Sushil Kumar's lament that he wanted only gold, the India story at these Games reflects a nation that is growing as a sporting power —one that is no longer content with being an also-ran.
With Sushil's silver, India ended its London Games campaign with six medals -- its best ever show at the biggest sports extravaganza.
Wrestling and shooting provided India two medals each, while women boxing and badminton added one medal each.
India had hoped to add a gold to its kitty when Sushil Kumar reached the final but his Japanese rival, an Asian Games champion, prevailed with his stout defence.
Raj Singh, the secretary general of the Wrestling federation of India said after the final that Sushil had a bout of diarrhea after his semifinal bout and also vomited as something he had eaten did not agree with him.
He also had a neck injury which he suffered during the semifinal against Kazakhstan's Akzhurek Tanatarov but that did not affect him, according to Raj.
Sushil trailed 0-1 after the first round and was out of the contest within 30 seconds of the second round when Yonemitsu penetrated his defence, lifted him up and banged him to fetch decisive three points lead.
Sushil had made a stunning comeback in the semifinal but could not repeat that in the final, although he reduced the margin by getting one point.
Earlier, the pin-up boy of Indian wrestling fought the best bout of his life as he came from behind to beat Tantarov 3-1 in the semi-final.
Sushil first used the Iranian technique to get over his opponent and then rolled him over for two points. A head butt by Tantarov assured him another point.
The second round undoubtedly belonged to the 25-year-old Kazakh wrestler as he put Sushil on the mat and tossed him over to get 3-0 clincher.
When the third round started, the 29-year-old Indian looked tired and jaded as within the first seconds, conceded a 3-0 lead to the Kazakh. The match looked as good as over for Sushil who waited for that one inspirational moment as he caught Tantarov by his leg and pegged him down to make it 3-3 with the vociferous Indian contingent egging him on.
This was followed by a Hercules-like act as he suddenly stood up with the Kazakh hanging on his shoulders. It probably was the defining moment for the Indian contingent's challenge at the biggest sporting spectacle. An Indian's show of strength at the world stage.
Sushil Kumar can take a bow as he will now be considered at par with legendary hockey players Dhyan Chand and Balbir Singh Sr although theirs was a team sport and were part of back-to-back gold medal winning teams.
Earlier, Sushil disposed of defending champion Ramazan Sahin of Turkey and then prevailed over Uzbekistan's Ikhtiyor Naruzov 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
With inputs from PTI