In recent years, India has arguably fielded the finest wrestling team at the Tokyo Olympics. Medal aspirations are high for Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat’s starring wrestling team, which has global and continental medalists.
The seven wrestlers competing in the Tokyo Olympics, on the other hand, are heroes in a sequel to a story that began long before their arrival. It only took the world’s first Indian wrestler 70 minutes to create history.
Indian wrestling’s greatest hero
There would almost certainly be a wrestler who idolizes Sushil Kumar in every akhara (wrestling school). He embodies the values of Indian wrestling: endurance, perseverance, and hard labor.
Inquire of Bajrang Punia, who will compete for India in the 65 kg weight class at the Tokyo Olympics, what Sushil accomplished for Indian wrestling. Here’s what he had to say about it:
Sushil Pahelwanji (wrestler) inspired us to believe that we (Indians) can also win an Olympic medal.”
Sakshi Malik, India’s first female Olympic medalist, echoes her male counterpart.
“That Olympic medal changed everything for me. After that, I only had one thought. She says, “I have to win a medal for my nation.”
Sushil isn’t the first wrestler from India to earn an Olympic medal in the sport. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav was the first Indian (wrestler) to win an Olympic medal in Independent India (1952).
India had to wait 56 years to match Jadhav’s feats at the quadrennial tournament.
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the game was changed in 70 minutes.
Sushil Kumar has a history of defying the odds time and time again. At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he did the same thing. The Najafgarh-born grappler needed to win three repechage bouts after falling to Sweden’s Andriy Stadnik 8-1 in the opening round.
He had 70 minutes to win India’s first Olympic medal since 1952 (in wrestling).
Among the wrestlers India has produced, the Indian grappler is distinctive. On the mat, he was not recognized for his stamina or speed, which are traits associated with Indian wrestlers. Instead, he used his raw might to defeat his opponents.
He defeated Doug Schwab (USA) 7-4 in the first repechage round. Then came an 8-4 triumph over Albert Batyrov (BLR).
Bajrang has also been in excellent form. At the Tokyo Olympics, he is seeded second in a star-studded weight division.
In the 57 kg freestyle, Ravi Dahiya (57 kg) will be a strong favorite. All eyes, though, will be on Anshu Malik (women’s 57 kg), who has been a revelation for India. The adolescent has been dubbed a dark horse in a weight division that includes many Olympic and world medalists.
Wrestlers Deepak Punia (86 kg) and Seema Bisla (50 kg) have both qualified for the Tokyo Olympics.