Having won back-to-back Olympic medals — a bronze at Beijing 2008 and a silver at London 2012 — India’s star wrestler Sushil Kumar has his eyes set on the gold at Rio de Janeiro 2016 now in a bid to complete his individual set of medals.
The 66kg freestyle grappler spoke to MiD DAY of his road to glory this far and his plans for clinching that elusive Olympic gold four years hence.
Pool of talent: India’s Olympic hero Sushil Kumar at the Percept office in Mumbai recently. Pic/Anita Anand
Excerpts from an interview.
Gagan Narang said after winning bronze at London that he wanted to complete the set of shooting medals after Rajyavardhan Rathore’s Athens 2004 silver and Abhinav Bindra’s Beijing 2008 gold. Have you thought of completing your own set of Olympic medals at Rio?
Oh yes... I would definitely want to complete that set in Rio. It would be a dream fulfilled, if I can do that. I’ll give it my best to win gold in 2016.
What you were going through before stepping into the ring for the gold medal bout?
I was ill the night before but didn’t want to tell anyone as that would have demoralised the team that had been working very hard behind the scenes for my success. All I knew was that I had to give it my best anyhow.
Is there one thing on the final day you could have done differently that may have brought you gold medal?
I didn’t attack from the start. That was the reason I lost in the final.
Is there any one person you would credit for your success?
There is a whole team that works with me, so I cannot point out one individual. My guruji Satpal Singh, my family, and now my wife, they all deserve equal credit for my success.
Can you describe your daily diet?
I’m a vegetarian, but on my doctor’s advice, I’ve started eating eggs as they contain protein. For breakfast, I have a bowl of milk with cornflakes, two slices of bread with butter, a glass of fresh juice, and a handful of almonds. Lunch and dinner comprises of two chapatis, vegetables and a bowl of yogurt. I also take multivitamins as prescribed by my physicians. My wrestling weight category leaves little room for fatty food, but I love aloo parathas.
Off the wrestling ring, what kind of a person are you?
I’m a very cool and calm person outside the ring. My aggression is restricted to the ring only
Is it true that you enjoy Hindi music, but have never watched a movie in a theatre?
Yes... I have never watched a film far in a movie hall given my tough training schedule, but I enjoy listening to Hindi music. I’ve seen Dabaang and Chak De India on TV though. Salman Khan is my favourite hero... he’s fit like a pehelwan’.
You got married last year. Do you discuss wrestling with your wife?
No... but she talks to me about wrestling a lot. My wife Savi deserves a lot of credit for my Olympic silver medal. As she accompanied me to London and ensured that my needs are taken care of the way they should be.
Champion Mary Kom does not want her kids to take up boxing as she doesn’t want to see them get hurt. Would you like your children (whenever you have them) to take up wrestling?
As I come from a wrestling family, I would want my kids to take the family tradition forward and become wrestlers. But only if my kid like wrestling, will I encourage him/her to take it up. If not, they are free to play any sport. But as I love wrestling, and my wife also comes from a similar background, there is no chance my kids will not like it. They will have wrestling in their genes.
Besides wrestling what are your other sporting interests?
I love playing football and basketball. I’m a diehard Lionel Messi fan. I follow Indian cricket too. Virender Sehwag, Mahendra Singh Dhoni and Sachin Tendulkar are my favourite cricketers