Mumbai: Sushil Kumar would have made greater history had he conquered Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in London on Sunday. But the 66-kg wrestler was up against much more than just a fiery Japanese opponent in the gold medal bout.
Moments after Sushil became the country’s first Olympic silver medal-winning wrestler and the only Indian athlete to win back-to-back Olympic medals (he won bronze at Beijing 2008), the Indian wrestling camp in London revealed ‘the other opponent’: “Minutes before the final, Sushil suffered a severe bout of loose motions. He visited the toilet five to six times and lost a lot of fluids in the process. The dehydration made him very weak and that showed in the final as the Japanese actually managed to carry Sushil — something that he has faced very rarely in a bout,” Wrestling Federation of India’s (WFI) chief coach Vinod Kumar told MiD DAY from London on Sunday.
Sushil (29) won India its sixth and final medal of the London Games when he lost 1-3 to Japan’s Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the summit clash at the ExCel Arena on Sunday. The Japanese won the first round 1-0 and executed a strong throw in the second to seal the fight. Moments earlier, Sushil beat Kazakhstan’s Akhzurek Tanatrov 3-1 in the semi-finals. Before that, Sushil dominantly disposed off defending champion Ramazan Sahin of Turkey and followed it up with a 3-1 win over Uzbekistan’s Ikhtiyor Naruzov.
The string of tough fights though took its toll on the Indian. “We left our rooms at 6 am to come here. Sushil had a couple of bouts in the morning followed by a short break, then the semis, then another break, and the final. He was naturally exhausted and hungry by the time the semi-final was over. So, he quickly nibbled on some vegetables and topped it up with bananas and juice. But it backfired as his stomach gave way. He was a little low before stepping into the ring for the final. So, we gave him some hot tea to sort of freshen him up,” explained WFI secretary general Raj Singh, who doubled up as team manager at the Games.
Needless to say, Sushil was not very happy with his effort. “The first words Sushil uttered to me after the final were ‘gold jeetna tha’ (I should have won gold). That’s the sort of fighter he is. But however hard one trains, one cannot fight against nature; cannot go against his own body. The gold wasn’t meant to be and unfortunately due to factors beyond the wrestling ring. The silver medal, however, does not belittle Sushil’s effort one bit. He has written a brand new chapter in Indian wrestling once again,” Raj Singh signed off.