Beyond the playing field: Sporting friendships that capture hearts

The Olympics have showcased a cinematic display of rivalries in the past between some of the greatest athletes in the world.

But what you don’t see sometimes are the bonds built off the field that have evolved into friendships and have lasted a long time.

Be it athletes from the same contingent or from different countries, a rivalry only ends well when two of the best players hold each other in respect with the art of friendship.

From bouts to BFFs

Olympic medallists and Indian wrestling stalwarts, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt have set an example for audiences of the sport.

Both starred at the London 2012 with medal-winning performances.

While Sushil won a silver medal in the 66kg men’s freestyle event, his second at this stage, Dutt ended with a bronze in the 60kg freestyle bout.

However, it was actually after the London Games that the two grew as good friends. While Dutt hung his boots and began mentoring Bajrang Punia, the world number one in the 65kg category, Sushil is still an active wrestler and will be eyeing a third Olympic medal at Tokyo 2020.

Though their bond may not always be publicly visible, the duo’s shining example still stands where two of India’s greatest athletes went from facing each other in bouts to becoming best friends.

More than Medals

At the 2016 Rio Olympics, Indian ace PV Sindhu won more than a silver medal.

She gained the admiration of the entire country along with the admiration of her opponent and Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin of Spain.

The two struck a chord after their unforgettable showdown in Rio when Sindhu lifted and congratulated Marin.

In the heat of battle there was always mutual respect, and this sporting spirit created a unique example of friendship over rivalry.

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#friendsforever @carolinamarin 😘😘

A post shared by sindhu pv (@pvsindhu1) on

Last year, while speaking to the media, the Indian ace commented on her desire to have a meal with the World No.1 during her visit to India.

Sindhu also stated that the Spaniard is the opposite of her aggressive nature when off the court. And then Marin’s Twitter post in 2018 made all the more sense when the duo posed in a picture with a caption that said, ‘It is more than just badminton @Pvsindhu1’.

With a strong friendship in place, it will be interesting to see this friendly rivalry take another inspirational turn at Tokyo 2020.

Stronger Together

A team sport has far different dynamics compared to an individual one like wrestling or boxing.

Another tale of two friends sharing a thick bond is that of Indian hockey players SV Sunil and PR Sreejesh.

Over the years, the two have been an integral part of the Indian system, playing key roles in leading the hockey team to greater heights. And it’s not surprising that this commitment to the cause has helped them grow as good friends.

We hope you enjoy this Friendship Day with your friends watching all our specials on The Olympic Channel.

In preparation for Tokyo 2020, all our athletes will be giving their best and we’re sure they will be counting on their friends for just that little extra boost.

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