Sushil Kumar hopes to overcome poor form for World Championship trial
India's star grappler Sushil Kumar keen to overcome poor form and excel in today's WFI selection bouts for September World Wrestling Championships
India's star grappler Sushil Kumar has little to prove on the wrestling mat, having achieved almost everything there is in the sport. So today's 74kg selection trials in New Delhi for next month's World Wrestling Championships in Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan (September 14-22) should be a cakewalk for India's only double Olympic medal-winning wrestler, right? Wrong!
Sushil, 36, has not been in good touch lately. He followed up his embarrassing first-round exit at last year's Asian Games in Indonesia with a quarter-final defeat at the Medved tournament in Minsk, Belarus earlier this month. However, in the repechage round thereafter, he nearly got his hands on a bronze medal. And that, Sushil claims, has given him confidence to do well today.
"It was tough to recover from that shoulder injury which I suffered a few years back, but I was determined and worked hard. The Asian Games [defeat] was an aberration, and thereafter I decided to give my shoulder an extended rest. Then, at Medved, though I lost in the quarters, I narrowly missed out on the bronze in the repechage. I lost by just one point. Had there been a few more seconds on the clock, I was confident of scoring more points and winning. I wrestled so well that many of my international wrestling friends, who were watching, told me that had I wrestled like that earlier, I could have won the gold or silver there. So, that performance has given me a lot of confidence," Sushil told mid-day over the phone after a training session in the capital on Sunday.
At the quarter-finals in Medved, Sushil was overpowered by World No. 5 Bekzod Abdurakhmonov of Uzbekistan, who, time and again, attacked the Indian's legs and scored points before pinning him down and ending the fight in just 90 seconds. Sushil said he learnt some valuable lessons from that defeat.
Room for improvement
"I have been working on my leg defence and some of my movements because I realise that I have to keep improving in all departments if I have to succeed against the world's best," added Sushil, a gold medal-winner (60kg) at the 2010 Moscow World Championships.
Amit Dhankar, who won a silver medal at the Asian Championships in China earlier this year, is expected to pose a threat to Sushil in today's trials.
Dhankar is currently World No. 9 in the 74kg category while Sushil is not even in the Top 20. It's no wonder then that the three-time Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning grappler is taking nothing for granted. "I respect every opponent who steps in the ring against me — be it at the national trials, Asian Games or even Olympics. I believe that if he is standing in the ring opposite me, he deserves to be there and that he can beat me, so I cannot take him lightly. With the Almighty's blessing, I hope to win and go to the World Championships," Sushil signed off.
Sign up for all the latest news, top galleries and trending videos from Mid-day.comSubscribe
Masterclass with Former National champion Kamlesh Mehta