An unassuming wrestler is a contradiction. The common notion about grapplers is that they are pompous and eager to show their strength at the first available opportunity. But Sushil Kumar, the man who earned India its second medal in Beijing — and the only one in wrestling after Khashaba Jadhav in the Helsinki Games in 1952 — is one of a kind.
Media shy, always keeping to himself and reticent to the point of not even revealing his mobile number, Sushil has maintained that his body feints on the mat should speak for him.
“He’s always been like that,” former chief national coach Gyan Singh, who got Sushil a job in the Indian Railways in 2004, told HT. “He has the traits of his father Diwan Singh…both of us are still very good friends and we stay close to each other in Najafgarh,” said Singh who is also the Railways’s chief wrestling coach. “His father is in the MTNL and theirs is a self-sufficient family.
"I still remember the day when he was appointed as Head TTE. He quietly took his appointment letter, showing little emotion. Today, he is the Chief Ticket Inspector (CTI)…Rarely does anyone get two promotions in four years, but Sushil’s work ethic has earned him one,” Singh said.
“I’ve always known him to be a serious and simple person,” Singh said. “He always wanted to build his strength…If the coach wanted him to do 10 push-ups, he would do 12,” he said.
Those who know him are also aware of his aversion for modern gadgets. “We used to have a terrible time getting him for national camps simply because he didn’t keep a mobile phone. We had to send people to Chhatrasal Stadium (in Delhi) to tell him about the national camp or get the word to his coaches, Yashvir and Ramphal,” Singh recalled.
“And when you scolded him for that, he would just bow his head down and listen. Never once did he get into an argument.
“I know how disappointed he was when he returned from Athens after losing to a Cuban in the first round, but he decided to start afresh.”
In fact, Sushil has suffered quite a lot because of various reasons. Before the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games, he was dropped from the squad despite beating fellow grappler Shokinder Tomar in the 60kg category. But the World cadet champion took it in his stride. Sushil also did not crib when one international tournament after another were skipped because of the internal wrangling in the Wrestling Federation of India which lasted two years.
For now Najafgarh has found another nawab, one who isn’t half as flamboyant as India’s first triple centurion. Those OB vans which would make a beeline to Virender Sehwag’s residence will now also have to queue up at a new address — Sushil Kumar’s.