Sushil Kumar: It's become a habit to write me off
India's two-time Olympic medal-winning grappler Sushil Kumar quashes retirement talk as he kicks off preparations to qualify for Tokyo Games that are postponed to next year.
"People have this habit of writing me off every now and then but it does not affect me," says veteran wrestler Sushil Kumar, quashing talk of retirement and insisting that postponement of Tokyo Olympics has given him a very good shot at qualifying for his fourth Games.
Sushil was struggling to make the cut for the Olympics, postponed to 2021 owing to the Coronavirus pandemic. The showpiece, originally scheduled for July-August this year, was expected to be a swansong for veterans such as Sushil and tennis ace Leander Paes. But the one-year delay seems to have caused a change of plans.
Set to turn 37 next month, Sushil told PTI, "I am not going anywhere as of now. I have got more time and more time means better preparation." Making a comeback at the 2019 World Championship, Sushil showed glimpses of the form that made him look invincible in his prime before he lost steam and made an early exit.
That disappointment is, however, already behind him. "Wrestling is such a sport that if you manage to remain injury-free, practice well, set a target and work on that, you can have a shot at your goal," said Sushil, the only Indian to win two Olympic medals. "I am still practising twice a day. Obviously, I am not hitting the mat but I am trying to be in shape and God willing, I will be able to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics," he added.
Sushil competes in the 74kg category in which India is yet to lock an Olympic quota. Will he be able to beat the slowing reflexes? "People were saying similar things in 2011. I know how to handle this. It's my daily job to manage it." Sushil was referring to doubts cast in 2011 over his ability to repeat his Beijing's bronze medal-winning show at the 2012 London Games. However, he ended up winning a silver in London.
The delay in Olympics has also brought Sushil's old foe Narsingh Pancham Yadav into the equation since his four-year doping ban will be over in July, making him eligible to take a shot at Olympic qualification. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has already said it will allow Narsingh to make a comeback. Narsingh was preferred over Sushil for the 2016 Games but it all ended in disaster when the former failed a dope test.
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