MELBOURNE: The path to the Olympics is paved with potholes for many athletes but few can claim to have overcome hardship like wrestler Vinod Kumar, who was thrown from a speeding train by a rival’s family in India before landing on his feet in Australia.
Melbourne-based Kumar will compete for his adopted country in the 66 kg-class of Greco-Roman wrestling at Rio de Janeiro, six years after landing Down Under with a suitcase in hand.
Winning the Olympic ticket was karma, according to Kumar, and a reward for forgiving the people who all but killed him when he was a teenager competing on India’s wrestling circuit.
Born in a small village near New Delhi and raised in a family of wrestlers, Kumar competed at junior national tournaments across the country from a young age.
In 2001, he boarded a long-haul train to an event in southern India with other young wrestlers but never arrived. As the night train coursed through coastal forests in Karnataka, Kumar was handed a spiked soft-drink and immediately felt dizzy after taking a mouthful. He went groggily to the carriage’s doorway to get some air and two men, one the father of a rival wrestler, hurled him from the train. Bones were broken in his arms and legs as his body careened off the tracks to settle by a body of water.
Kumar believes he would have died if he had not been discovered by rail workers in the morning, putting him on another train bound for a hospital that could treat him.