Commonwealth Games 2014: Of Golden Wrestlers With a Silver Lining
Indian wrestlers bagged five gold, six silver and two bronze to finish with a tally of 13 medals, most by any country at Glasgow.
Indian wrestlers lived upto their expectations by scooping 13 medals, including five gold, with star grapplers Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt leading the charge in yet another spectacular show at the 20th Commonwealth Games. (Four Indian Boxers in Final, Pinki Rani Bags Bronze)
London Olympics silver medallists Sushil (men's 74kg freestyle) and Yogeshwar Dutt (men's 65kg) were a class apart as they won gold in their respective weight categories while Amit Kumar (57kg), Vinesh (women's 48) and Babita Kumari (women's 55kg) showed the quality of the young brigade in Indian wrestling talent reservoir. (CWG Day 9 Wrap | Highlights | Results | Medal Tally)
Besides the five gold, India also won six silver and two bronze to run away with 13 medals, the maximum won by any country in the Glasgow Games, though Canada (12 medals) got more gold -- seven. (Seema Punia bags Discus silver, Krishna Poonia finishes fifth)
The gold count could have been more had not there been a drought on the second day of the wrestling competition when four Indians lost in their respective final bouts.
Indian wrestlers started on a strong note on day one by scooping three gold medals with Sushil leading the charge. Amit Kumar and Vinesh Phogat swelled the Indian gold medal count though Rajeev Tomar had to settle for a bronze in men's 125kg freestyle.
31-year-old Sushil, India's only back-to-back Olympic medal winner with a bronze in 2008 Olympics and a silver at 2012 London Games, asserted his class as he won his all four bouts of the day quite comfortably.
In the gold-medal bout against Qamar Abbas of Pakistan, Sushil had an easy outing. Even before one could blink, the contest was over as the Indian pinned down his rival to clinch the gold in a 5-0 victory by fall verdict in a contest which lasted one minute 47 seconds. Sushil was leading 8-0 on technical points when the contest ended.
But, Amit Kumar was the first to begin the golden day as he defeated Ebikweminomo Welson of Nigeria 3-1 in his final bout. The 20-year-old Indian fought a tough battle -- two periods of three minute each -- but eventually managed to win the gold after he led 6-2 on technical points.
"We had sent the wrestlers for foregin training and tournament. The current government has also been very helpful and so we could provide the wrestlers the correct and required food supplements. I want to thank the government for this," said the WFI chief.
He said the wrestlers would be sent to another foreign exposure-cum-training trip before the upcoming World Championships and the Asian Games in September-October.
"We are sending the wrestlers for 15-20 days foreign training trip. We have some countries in mind, including Belarus, as the foreign destination. We will decide on it soon.
"Asian Games are coming up and we want to do continue our good performance. We have a plan for the wrestlers with the ultimate aim for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Our aim is to do better in Rio 2016 than in 2012 London Olympics."
Sharan also said that the federation has sent a plan to the sports ministry to spread the sport in other parts of the country.
"We have proposed to the government that we can send at least 20 mats and coaches to other states where the base of wrestling is weak. We want to spread the sport in other states," Sharan said.
Vinesh also had to face stiff challenge in her final bout against Yana Rattigan of England before emerging victorious with a 3-1 verdict in a contest which also lasted the full six minutes. The Indian could only inch ahead of her opponent 11-8 on technical points at the end of the bout.
In doing so, Vinesh emulated her older, more illustrious cousin Geeta who was the first Indian woman wrestler to win a Commonwealth gold (2010 Delhi).
India, however, had to endure a devastating second day as none of the four finalists could win a gold as they settled for four silver and one bronze.
Satyawart Kadian (men's 97kg freestyle), Bajrang (men's 61kg), Lalita Sehrawat (women's 53kg) and Sakshi Malik (women's 58kg) won a silver each while Navjot Kaur bagged a bronze in women's 69kg.
But, India came back strongly on the third and concluding day to reassert their prowess on the wrestling arena. Yogeshwar and Babita won gold while Geetika Jhakar bagged a silver in women's 63kg. Pawan Kumar then bagged a bronze in men's 86kg.
Yogeshwar used his trademark 'fitele' (leg-twisting) technique to great effect in all the four bouts he had fought. In the final against Jevon Balfour of Canada, Yogeshwar was at his best as he did not allow his opponent any chance to attack him.
As soon as the bout began, Yogeshwar pounced on his opponent and got a chance to employ his leg-twisting technique but the Canadian resisted and the referee blew his whistle. Yogeshwar got just two technical points from that but the Indian soon got a chance to go for the kill and he did not let it go waste.
Yogeshwar pinned down his opponent after a brief lull and grabbed both the legs of the Canadian and rolled himself over and over again on the mat before the referee stopped the bout after the Indian had taken a 10-0 technical point lead. Yogeshwar won the bout 4-0 on points.
Yogeshwar's victory triggered a wild celebration by the packed crowd with some spectators waving the tri-colour in the presence of top Indian officials and Sushil.
"I was expecting a tough fight from the Canadian but it's my day. I came well-prepared and I am happy to be part of a spectacular show by the Indian wrestlers. It is great days for Indian wrestling and we have done extremely well," he said after winning gold.
"The 2016 Rio Olympics is the ultimate target and we are on right track. All the wrestlers including me and Sushil Kumar are doing well at the moment. I hope we do well in the Asian Games and then the Olympics," he added.
It was, however, Babita who gave the first gold for India on the concluding day by defeating Brittanee Laverdure of Canada in a dominant display. She led 5-0 after the first period of three minutes and then consolidated her position to win the final.
"I have been working hard with the sole aim to win a gold. I won a silver in 2010 Delhi CWG in 51kg and I was determined to win the gold this time," she said later.
Babita grabbed the gold in the category which was won by her elder sister Geeta Phogat in 2010 in Delhi. Babita said her feat today compensated for the absence of her sister Geeta, who missed the Games due to injury.
"I spoke to Geeta just before the bout and she said I should come back with a gold. I have fulfilled her wish and my family's wish," she said.
An elated Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan told PTI that the spectacular performance of the grapplers was on expected lines and dubbed the current team the best one ever.
"We were expecting this kind of result. We could have done even better had we got another one or two medals on the second day. There were some mistakes from our wrestlers in their final bouts, otherwise we could won even more gold medals," he said.
"But overall it was an extremely good performance. We (the federation) is happy and I can say that this is the best ever team. We have had great wrestlers in the past but this is the best team we had in our wrestling team," he added.
Sharan said that the foreign exposure trips and other facilities given to the wrestlers have paid dividends.