Wrestling icon Sushil selfless ahead of Rio Olympics

New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) The only Indian to win two individual Olympic medals, Sushil Kumar says it does not matter whether he or Narsingh Pancham Yadav represents the country in the freestyle 74 kg wrestling competition at the 2016 Rio Olympics as long as either comes back with a medal.

A sabbatical and a couple of injuries kept the 32-year-old out of action following the 2012 London Games, leading to youngster Narsingh to take up his spot and becoming a regular in the 74 kg category.

A mouth-watering clash was expected between the two at the July trials for the World Championships, but a shoulder injury forced Sushil out, allowing Narsingh an easy passage for the September 7-15 meet which will take place in Las Vegas.

“We were supposed to have a trial in 2014 also but it did not happen. My trial will be very difficult because I give a trial only when I am fit. The way I wrestle is known to everyone as we all train together, irrespective of the weight category,” Sushil told IANS in an interview.

“It will be great if Narsingh qualifies instead of me as over here, the country matters more than the individual. The one who does better will participate at the Olympics and earn the right to win a medal. If I say ‘no, only I will play’ and I am not fit, then there is no point.”

The only Indian to be crowned a World Champion, Sushil said that his shoulder has healed and he will soon leave for the United States where he will train for 2-3 months.

“The shoulder is fine now and I have joined full training. If possible, I might leave to train in the US in the middle of next month. I also may go to see the World Championships. After that I will stay there for 2-3 months for training,” said Sushil, who recently launched a foundation ‘Sushil4Sports’ to help injured athletes via BIG FM’s radio programme BIG Rakshak.

Even though he is not participating in the Worlds, the Delhi-born wished the others and also expects 2013 World Championships silver medallist Amit Kumar, Narsingh and Olympic bronze medallist Yogeshwar Dutt to do well.

“I expect the entire team to do well. They have prepared really well. Amit, Narsingh, Bajrang and Yogeshwar can all do well. Earlier we used to go to the Olympics or World Championships to participate; now we go to win medals. This has become a mindset now,” said Sushil, who won the freestyle 66 kg silver and bronze medals at the 2012 and 2008 Olympics respectively.

Following the footsteps of several other sports, the Pro Wrestling League (PWL) was also launched in July and will be held across various Indian cities. The two-time Commonwealth Games champion said that PWL will be beneficial for Indian amateur grapplers.

“When it comes to tournaments, the more you get, the better. And just before the Olympics, you are getting huge international exposure that too at home, which is great!” said the five-time Commonwealth Championships gold medallist.

“It will be very good. Top foreign wrestlers will come here so there will be a lot of exposure and good competition for our boys. The results of these things, you won’t get to know now but in the future when our boys perform well at the international level.”

Asked what keeps him going, Sushil replied: “Till the time you are fit and the desire is still burning, you should continue.”

He concluded by joking: “Aur kuch aata bhi to nahi hai (I hardly know anything else)”.

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