From bronze in Beijing to silver in London, Sushil Kumar has achieved what no other Indian has --- win individual medals in two Olympics. Although it has raised his stature further as a national sporting icon, Sushil was still hurting from inside a day after he failed to clinch the 66kg freestyle gold.
Having devoted the last two years to the London Olympics mission, Sushil’s priority on Monday was to fly home at the earliest. He didn’t mind sleeping for just a few hours before checking out of the Games Village at 6.30am to catch his flight. The ace grappler interacted with HT at the airport. Excerpts from the interview:
You said England is lucky for you, is it because you won the silver?
That is one reason, but I won my life’s first international medal here. I made my international debut in Manchester in 1998, in the cadet world championships, and there I won gold. That was the stepping stone for all that I have achieved.
What were your thoughts when you entered the competition yesterday?
I was quite optimistic and relaxed. I was coming with the Azerbaijan wrestler (Jabrayil Hasanov) and on the bus to ExCel Venue, he told me ‘as we are both in different pools, you are going to win yours and I will win mine and the final will be between us’. God listened to his wish for me, but I am sad that he couldn’t make it to the final, and lost to the Cuban (Livan Azcuy Lopez, in the repechage bout for bronze medal).
Immediately after the final bout, you were quite upset?
I lost a bout that was within my reach. I was hoping for gold and it slipped out of my hands. That is why I was upset. Which player would want to lose a bout, even when it gives you a silver medal in the Olympics?
Are you not satisfied with the silver medal?
The question here is not about winning silver, but losing the gold medal, and that too after coming so close. Moreover, a sportsman never gets satisfied. Otherwise, I would have been satisfied after becoming an Olympian at the Athens Olympics (2004), or after winning an Olympic medal in Beijing. But I wanted more and that’s why I came here. I changed the colour of the medal in London, but gold is gold.
So, gold medal at the Rio Olympics?
Winning an Olympic medal is every sportsman’s dream. I am not an exception. After winning an Olympic medal, the next step is becoming an Olympic champion and that is what I also wanted. But four years is a really long time. Right now, I cannot predict anything, what I will be doing after four years. But the one thing I can say for sure is that I have no immediate retirement plans.
So, what’s the immediate plan?
Right now, I want to sleep as much as I can.
You are the only Indian to win two individual Olympic medals. That has made you a legend…
I don’t know whether I have become a legend or not, but people’s appreciation for my achievements makes me happy. And I want to remain Sushil Kumar for them. It’s only because of their wishes that I was able to reach this height.
How was last night? Any celebrations?
After the medal ceremony, I stayed back at the venue till 6.30 pm giving media interviews. I really got tired, and after going to the Village, I had dinner. After talking to my coaches and fellow wrestlers, I went to sleep. There were no such celebrations.
What was your initial thought when you checked into the Village?
(Laughs) I checked in twice, once for the opening ceremony and then for my event. The one thing that was in my mind was that I was here to win gold. Unfortunately, I had to settle for silver.
Was there any pressure on you after Abhinav Bindra and Vijender Singh failed to repeat their Beijing medal performances?
There was no pressure on me. Winning and losing are part and parcel of life. We should not forget that Abhinav and Vijender are great sportsmen. They have proved their mettle at a level few Indians have reached. And Abhinav won an Olympic gold, which till date I have not been able to do.
Your coach Yashvir was in tears after the medal ceremony...
After the medal ceremony, when I gave the medal to my coach, he got emotional. We have a strong bond. He has been with me for most of the time, be it the national camps or foreign outings. In fact, the medal is also in his custody.
You always credit your team for your triumphs. Who all are in your team?
I have always said that as an individual I can’t do anything. I managed to reach here only because of the support from my coaches, family and well-wishers. But when I talk about the core members of my team, they are all my coaches, my brother Amarjit, who specially came to London but because of accreditation problem had to stay outside, physio Arvinderpal Singh, and my training partner Pardeep, who couldn’t come here. In fact, Amarjeet and Arvinderpal had got their return tickets for August 14, but once I told them they had to come with me, they got their tickets booked in the flight I am taking.