London: He was suffering from de-hydration and a stomach bug by the time he came out for his final bout. On a day which saw him battle past renowned wrestlers, India's Sushil Kumar braved his illness to put up a valiant fight against Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu, falling eventually to come out second best.
Sushil fought against three opponents before meeting Yonemitsu, the second taking the biggest toll on him. He had a gap of a few hours, came out looking slightly pale but while the final scoreline reflected a score of 1-3 against him, it failed to show the determination and will of the wrestler to earn a win, seen at ground level. In his final defeat though, an unwell Sushil managed to show winning spirit. "Injuries are part and parcel of the sport," he told NDTV after the bout. (Read report here)
The 5 foot 5 inch tall, wrestler from Najafgarh in Haryana also managed to create history by becoming the first Individual Indian to win a medal in two consecutive Olympic Games. He had won a Bronze in the Beijing Olympics in 2008. (London Olympics Medals Tally)
Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh congratulated him on his win while Union Minister tweeted that he saluted Sushil's fighting spirit. "Sushil Kumar is the first Indian Olympian to win medals in consecutive Olympics,the country salutes him," he wrote. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dixit announced a reward of Rs One crore while Haryana Chief Minister announced a prize of Rs 1.5 crore.
The wrestler, who competes in the 66 kg men's division, had a bye in the first round. In the pre-quarter, he started in style, beating the reigning Olympic champion Ramazan Sahin of Turkey on superior technical points. His quarter-final bout against Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan was a tricky affair and Sushil had to dig in deep. He won the first round but the Uzbek took the second. The diminutive Indian then first displayed attractive wrestling to take the third round and win the bout on higher technical points.
His next opponent, Akzhurek Tanatarov of Kazakhstan had earlier beaten him in the Asian qualifications in Kazakhstan and it was a revenge match of sorts for the Indian. Back then, Sushil Kumar had not even qualified for the London Olympics and that loss was a bitter one as Yogeshwar Dutt and Amit Kumar, both managed to qualify before Sushil.
But in the London Olympics, nothing was to stop Sushil. He won the first round in the semi-final quite comfortably by three points to nil. Tanatarov made a strong come back to take the second period 3-0 and thus level the match. In the third round, the Kazakh was leading 3-0 at one point when Sushil had to bring in all his experience and guile to first level the round, and then clinch it with seconds to go.
Sushil, who lead the Indian contingent at the London Olympics 2012, has been representing India since he was 18, but the country woke up to him when he finished with a bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics in 2008. He became only the second Indian wrestler after Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav, who had won a Bronze for India in 1952 at the Helsinki Games, to win an Olympic medal.