In a book titled My Olympic Journey , Sushil Kumar has revealed how he was advised to retire after the Beijing games, but persevered to win silver at the London Olympics. The double-Olympic medalist also talked about how London Olympics was a watershed moment in the attitude of Indian athletes.
Sushil was one of only three medalists for India at the Beijing Games in 2008 after he won the bronze in the 66kg freestyle event. The Olympian has revealed, in a book titled My Olympic Journey, how he was advised to retire right after the Games, but that he did not give in to the lure of going out on a high and instead persevered.
Speaking about the aftermath of the first medal, Sushil wrote, "I returned to India (after the Beijing Games) and was told by my well-wishers to bow out on a high and retire. I was flabbergasted. After all these years, I had finally realized what it meant to be an Olympic medallist and what was needed to achieve that goal. It was only after winning the Olympic bronze that I grasped the finer points of wrestling, such as how to hold an opponent, various techniques, and strategies for different fights. It was the start, not the end.
"I began to build up my game with even more rigour and passion, and the results soon followed," in the book.
The 33-year-old grappler also revealed that the magnitude of his achievement in 2008 did not hit him until he was back in India.
"I frankly did not understand the magnitude of what I had just achieved.
"...I wasn't aware till then that a 52-year jinx on Indian wrestling had been ended with my medal. I learnt that KD Jadhav had previously won a medal in Helsinki in 1952. I was happy being an Olympic medallist, but the true worth of the medal would be realized only when I came home," wrote Sushil.
Sushil also wrote about his experience at the London Olympics where he clinched silver in a grueling match.
"I could not perform to my expectations in the final and was comprehensively beaten. I was disappointed at losing out on the gold, but I knew that on that day, it was the best I could do. As I stood on the Olympic podium again, I was satisfied,” he wrote.
Sushil also remembered how the American coaches and wrestlers aided him during the Games and before the final.
"I had a chance at winning the gold but my body had all but given up on me. I had coaxed every last bit of energy from my dehydrated body that morning and every one of my bouts had gone the distance. There was a break for a few hours before the gold medal match against Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu. I could not recover. I was continuously running to the bathroom and was very weak. I knew I had to fight as this was the biggest fight of my life.
"The entire Indian team was egging me on, but there was also help from unexpected quarters.
“For some reason, the American coaches were very fond of me.
"...At London, the chief coach of the American team assisted me in my preparations for the final and gave me inputs on how to tackle the Japanese.
It is a gesture I can never forget," he recollected.
Sushil also said that the London Games in 2012 was a watershed moment that showed Indians that Olympic medals are within their reach and brought about a change in their attitude.
"I was part of that generation that grew up with the dream of being an Olympian. Today, in the wrestling akhara, every aspiring wrestler wants to win an Olympic gold and will settle for nothing less. What delights me is that this mentality isn't limited to wrestling alone; almost every sport today is seeing this change," he wrote.
Also read: Road to Rio: The great Indian dream
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