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Sushil, Vijender provide sparks to India's campaign

Two Indians, one destiny. Their fate intertwined in one moment of glory —a medal moment — sparked wild jubilation in a billion hearts. After 56 years India have more than two medals, reports Indraneel Das.Full CoverageFacts about Indian wrestling

india Updated: Aug 21, 2008 11:01 IST

Two Indians, one destiny. Their fate intertwined in one moment of glory —a medal moment — sparked wild jubilation in a billion hearts. Finally, we did it. After 56 years we have more than two medals next to India’s name. Who knows, by the end of the Games we might have more than just two bronze and a gold! The Beijing Games will forever be remembered for India’s greatest display in the world's greatest event.

It was maddening here. The moment boxer Vijender Kumar added another medal to India’s two, after Sushil Kumar won the bronze in the 66-kg freestyle wrestling here on Wednesday evening, the Workers’ Stadium erupted in joy. The Tricolour was fluttering all around and for a moment, the handful came to watch Jitender and Vijender fight, couldn’t conceal their joy. “Proud of being an Indian,” yelled one from the crowd.

In Najafgarh on the outskirts of Delhi, the fireworks were reminiscent of the time another local hero, Virender Sehwag, scored a triple ton. Neighbours converged at the Kumars’ home to congratulate Sushil’s father Diwan Singh.

In neighbouring Bhiwani, Vijender’s parents Mahipal and Krishna Beniwal offered prayers in the Kalwash village temple , surrounded by well-wishers.

Coming from contrasting backgrounds — Sushil’s father is a driver with The Delhi Transport Corporation and Vijender’s a government employee — the two heralded a new era in Indian sport. For now, we can think about two other disciplines where we match the rest of the world. For once, we can focus on Olympic sport.

"Hope this will help boxing to grow in India," was Vijender's wish. He beat Ecuador's Carlos Gongora on 9-4 in the quarterfinals.

It's ironic that India managed to break the jinx through two sports that are not only popular but also successful, especially in the junior circuit, of late. Our boxers have won cadet gold medals and we have a couple of bronze and silver by wrestlers too. And these are sport that is keenly followed in the villages and towns of north India.

"Sooner or later we had to do it," said the Cuban boxing coach B.I. Fernandes. His words were echoed with the same zest by three-time Asian Games wrestling medallist and manager Kartar Singh: "We knew we had talent. We knew if everything goes on well we should be winning the medal."

So what makes these victories special?

If you ask the players they have just one thing to say. "Hope the state of Indian wrestling improves," said Sushil. "If we had the same facilities as the Russians we would not have to wait for 56 years."

"I hope this victory will give us boxers some recognition," said Vijender. "From sweat to blood we have shed everything for this moment." Sushil, too felt it took a medal for people to know who he was. "No one knew me when I came here. Probably you may say that there was no expectation from the people back home and the media too. But my coach and I knew I had a fair chance of winning a medal," he said at the China Agricultural University in Beijing.