In the past nine months, Sushil Kumar has had to put with a lot after Narsingh Pancham Yadav qualified for the Rio Olympics in the 74kg category.
As an aspirant in the same weight category, the two-time Olympic medallist will have to stave off competition from his younger rival if he wants a ticket to the Games. In a freewheeling interview, Sushil talked about his absence from the mat after the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, and fending off rumours about shying away from the match-up with Narsingh. Excerpts:
What is the update on your fitness?
In my view, I am fitter than in 2012. Even the foreign experts attached with the Indian team think I have never been this fit in the last four years.
There are concerns over your match fitness as you have not fought after winning at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Can you explain the absence?
I could have participated in the 2014 Asian Games but I wasn’t fully fit. I wouldn’t want to be in a situation wherein I go somewhere and have to withdraw. That will be an embarrassment for my countrymen as they expect a lot from us. Besides, I will never stand in the way of a teammate if I am unfit. The country comes first.
What is your view on trials?
Of course, they should be held. I am not saying this because I am a party in this case, but because there has to be a proper system when it comes to such situations. Last week, Jordan Burroughs, the reigning world and Olympic champion, had to undergo trials to win a place in the US team. How else can anyone ascertain whether someone is in form when major championships are near?
Trials were not held before the London Olympics, so why now?
This time the situation is different. There was no competition against those who had qualified for the London Games. This time, there is competition, so trials should be held.
There are rumours that you were hiding from the team. You were practicing separately in Sonepat and Georgia. Why did you do that?
If I was running away, I wouldn’t be training at all. This isn’t my first time. If I have the wishes of friends and countrymen, this will be my fourth Olympics. I have won two medals for the country. I am upfront if I am not ready. I did not participate in the Asian Games…it is a very big tournament; I even missed the World Championships.
I was training alone as this isn’t a team game. If I was shying away from training, I wouldn’t have come anywhere near where I am. I had permission from the chief coach to plan my training. The foreign coach keeps a tab on what I do.
Any idea why these rumours are doing the rounds?
I haven’t a clue. I’ll never let a situation arise when I am unable to participate and we have to forfeit the bout. Like I have done in the past, if I am injured I’ll encourage the next best guy to participate in my weight category.
Strangely, you support Narsingh through Sushil4sports that helps athletes.
He has done us proud and was the first one to qualify. He respects me a lot, but this is wrestling. You may come across brothers in a bout, but we have to be professional.