CWG 2018: India's Golden grapplers

Apr 13, 2018, 10:21 IST | V Krishnaswamy

While wrestler Sushil Kumar (74kg) pockets record third CWG gold medal, Maharashtra's Rahul Aware makes it count with gold in 57kg category

Sushil Kumar wrestles with SA's Johannes Botha in the freestyle 74kg final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games yesterday. Pic/PTI
Sushil Kumar wrestles with SA's Johannes Botha in the freestyle 74kg final at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games yesterday. Pic/PTI

Two wrestlers with contrasting careers, one a legend who has more medals that he can remember and another who has known only oblivion till now, gave India two gold medals on the first day of the wrestling competition at the Commonwealth Games. Sushil Kumar in 74kg and Rahul Aware in 57kg brought in two gold medals India reaped as the Games meandered into the final days of the celebration.

Sushil's last show?
While it may well be Sushil's last major championships, though he made no such proclamation, Aware reveled his new-found fame as a gold medallist at a major event. A veteran and a legend rolled into one, Sushil became the first Indian to win three Commonwealth Games gold, while Aware, who has spent almost the whole of the last decade in obscurity despite five National championship titles, were the toast of the Indian contingent yesterday.

Sushil, who made a comeback to active wrestling at the 2017 Commonwealth Championships after a three-year gap from his last Commonwealth Games gold (in 2014), outclassed all his rivals at the Carrara Stadium yesterday. None of Sushil's four opponents were able to take him the full distance (two rounds of three minutes each). His first two opponents (Jevon Balfour and Muhammad Butt) were dismissed with one-sided verdicts of more than 10 points, at which point the wrestler is deemed to have won on technical superiority. In the final match of his section, he won over Evans Connor by a fall. In the final, South African Johannes Botha lasted a mere 80 seconds as Sushil went 10-0 up to win by technical superiority.

Rahul Aware celebrates his gold medal feat
Rahul Aware celebrates his gold medal feat

Aware, 26, hailing from Tehsil Patoda in Maharashtra's Beed district, was seen as a great prospect when he won silver at the 2009 World Juniors a year after a gold in Asian Juniors. But thereafter he was overlooked as changing weight categories and higher profile teammates dominated the berths on the National squad for major games. "I have always been overlooked for Commonwealth Games and other major events. This was my first big chance," said Aware, who is now eyeing the Asian Games and 2020 Olympics. In the time since 2009 till 2018, most of the internationals he was sent for were invitational events.

Aware on top
Aware beat Steven Takahashi of Canada 15-7 to win on points. He earlier beat George Ramm on technical superiority at 11-0 and then got past local Thomas Ciccini 10-0 also on technical superiority. In the semis he beat Pakistan's Muhammad Bilal on points 12-8. Into the final, Aware trailed 0-2 before moving ahead and then did not look back as he emerged a winner 15-7. However, he hung in and collected vital points, despite seeming to have strained his groin region.

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