Veteran Indian wrestler and two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar revealed that after his shoulder injury in 2011, not many believed that he could turn up and compete at the London 2012 Olympics.
After Sushil Kumar’s bronze medal at the 2008 Olympics, the Najafgarh grappler had a brilliant run of form in the following years, particularly in 2010.
That year, Kumar won gold medals at the Asian Wrestling Championships, Commonwealth Games and the World Wrestling Championships before his peak form was halted by a shoulder injury.
The problem that initially forced him to skip the Asian Games as a precautionary measure had soon become recurring and Sushil Kumar ended up missing out almost a year.
However, it was after he missed an Olympic qualification tournament in 2011 that questions were raised about his participation at the Games.
“I injured my right shoulder and there was a time where my qualification was at stake. I had even missed one qualification tournament,” Sushil Kumar revealed during The Medal of Glory show on Sony Sports’ Facebook page.
“People thought if I wasn’t even qualifying, how would I go on to win a medal at the London Games,” he added.
However, Sushil Kumar had soon qualified for his third consecutive Olympics by winning the World Olympic Games Qualifying Wrestling Tournament at Taiyuan, China.
Sushil Kumar later went on to beat the 2008 Olympic gold medalist in his very first round at the London Games, before eventually clinching the silver medal for India in London.
Grappling the one per cent
Beating the odds time and again, however, is something Sushil Kumar is very well acquainted with.
After he had lost his first-round match to Andriy Stadnik at Beijing 2008, Sushil Kumar needed to win three repechage bouts across 70 minutes in order to win the bronze medal for India.
And he had done it in a magnificent manner.
Sushil Kumar’s opponent Leonid Spiridonov sat in an extremely favourable position to win the playoff bout, with wrestling experts playing down the Indian wrestler’s chances to win it.
“After I had won the first round, my opponent got a grip position advantage and won the second round. The third round was similar as he [Leonid Spiridonov] won the toss and got to grip my leg again,” Sushil Kumar recalled.
“But, I knew I had to escape his grip anyhow and my coach [Satpal Singh] had told me not to give up till the very end.
“Wrestling experts say that the Kazakhstan wrestler had 99 per cent of the bout in his favour and I had 1 per cent. I made a comeback in that 1 per cent and won the medal,” India’s flag-bearer of the 2012 Olympics added.
Sushil Kumar’s chances for Tokyo 2020
After missing out on the 2016 Olympics, a 36-year-old Sushil Kumar is now preparing for the Tokyo Games with Jitender Kumar emerging as his biggest challenge in the 74kg men’s freestyle category.
With Jitender Kumar already named to represent India at the Asian Wrestling qualifiers, Sushil Kumar will hope his compatriot doesn’t reach the final of the continental qualification tournament.
In that case, Sushil Kumar will need to win the national trials, if held by Wrestling Federation of India (WFI), to have a shot at the Tokyo Olympics qualification through the World Olympic qualifiers.