New Delhi, July 6: When Sushil Kumar became only the second Indian grappler ever to win an Olympic medal — at the 2008 Beijing Games — the entire nation stood up to take notice. A couple of years later, the 27-year old is still going strong after bagging a gold in the Asian Wrestling Championships here in May.
The focus now is on the Commonwealth Games at home beginning October 3. “There are 21 medals at stake across different categories in the Commonwealth Games. India are strong contenders for each one of those,” Sushil told this newspaper on Tuesday.
The road to CWG has not been easy for the grapplers. Hours of hard work in extremely trying conditions have been critical to their success.
Born in a family of pehelwans, Sushil battled hard with minimal funds and poor training facilities. “I joined the akhada at the Chhatrasal Stadium in Delhi at the age of 14. Those were very different days and we had to jostle for space with dozens of other talented wrestlers for some time on the mat.
“To add to that there were no air-conditioned training venues in India till a few years back. International grapplers like me sometime spent from our own pockets to train abroad,” the 27-year-old wrestler added.
Sushil sees a marked improvement in the scenario since he won the bronze medal in 2008.
“The Olympic medal was a major achievement and made the nation realise that we are capable of competing with the best. The sports ministry has also helped out a lot since then and the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex (where the CWG wrestling event will take place) is looking simply magnificent,” he said.
The Olympic bronze medallist, along with other CWG core group of wrestlers, trains at the Ludlow Castle wrestling venue twice a week and the Sports Authority of India centre near Sonepat the rest of the time.
The Ludlow Castle centre was constructed at the cost of Rs 13 crores. The ground floor has various facilities such as restrooms, gym, cafeteria, physiotherapy centres, doping control centre, changing rooms, sauna bath and a medical centre. The first floor has a training hall, which can accommodate six wrestling mats at a time.
“The training venue for the CWG is world-class with air-conditioned complex. We train there twice a week while the SAI centre is also getting renovated. These are very promising signs for the sport,” Sushil said.
Sushil is currently preparing for the World Championships to be held in Moscow in September. “The worlds should be good preparation ahead of the CWG. India should win at least 2-3 medals from Moscow.
As sports minister M.S. Gill said earlier, all the top-class facilities are being provided to us. It’s up to us now to bring back glory for the nation,” he said.