Narsingh Yadav wants to win an Olympic medal for his wife Shilpi and son

Updated: 27 March, 2020 08:49 IST | Ashwin Ferro | Mumbai

Wrestler Narsingh Yadav, whose four-year dope ban ends in July, offering him a shot at 2021 Tokyo Olympics, says his successful return will prove to the world he was unfairly treated

Narsingh Yadav with wife Shilpi and son Dhruv
Narsingh Yadav with wife Shilpi and son Dhruv

When an athlete reaches his lowest ebb, there's only one direction to go...upwards. And wrestler Narsingh Yadav is ready to rise. The 2015 World Championships bronze medal-winning grappler is all set to return to competitive wrestling with his four-year dope ban ending this July, offering him an opportunity to aim for the Tokyo Olympics that have been postponed to next year due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

However, a lot has happened since August 2016, when Yadav, a 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, was banned by the World Anti-Doping Agency hours before his Rio Olympics bout. Only a few days earlier, the National Anti-Doping Agency had cleared him of all dope charges, accepting his claims of sabotage.

"After I returned from Rio, I felt like a traitor. People thought I had cheated my country. I kept pleading with everyone that my food/drink had been spiked but no one believed me. A futile investigation followed. During these four years, the investigating authorities, the government, the Sports Authority of India, no one helped me. I only had the support of my wife, Shilpi [also a national wrestler], who was convinced about my ability and encouraged me not to give up. And now, I have my son, Dhruv [three months old]. I want to make this return to the mat for them. I want to win an Olympic medal and prove to my son that his father was unfairly treated. I want Dhruv to become a wrestler just like his parents," Yadav, 31, an Assistant Commissioner of Police with the Mumbai division, told mid-day on Thursday.

India wrestler Narsingh Yadav holds the national flag after winning the 74kg men’s freestyle match at the Commonwealth Games at New Delhi in 2010. pic/AFP
India wrestler Narsingh Yadav holds the national flag after winning the 74kg men's freestyle match at the Commonwealth Games at New Delhi in 2010. pic/AFP

Yadav will compete in the 74kg category, which has been dominated in India by two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar. In 2016, Yadav had blamed the Sushil camp for his dope scandal after the Wrestling Federation of India refused the latter a trial and picked Yadav for Rio, based on his World medal.

So, will he take on the veteran with a vengeance if they meet on the mat in future? "I don't see this as a fight between Sushil and me, but it's my battle against the world's top wrestlers. Most of the top wrestlers, who have qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, have lost to me in the past, so that should tell you something about my prospects. I have trained hard over the years and my coach [Jagmal Singh] believes that I am still very much a force to reckon with. God has given me a second chance and I'm keen to make it count," Yadav replied.

The grappler however, isn't selfish enough to only think about his return to the mat. He realises that there's a global pandemic to deal with first. "The Coronavirus may have thrown me a lifeline professionally but it has devastated the lives of lakhs of people globally. So, I urge everyone to stay indoors and help in pinning down this virus forever," he signed off.

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First Published: 27 March, 2020 08:40 IST

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