Oh, what a wonderful world!

Nobody gives Sushil Kumar a walkover, Bhupathi and Paes kiss and make up and AFI actually does something for the athletes. TN Vimal Sankar imagines a drastically different 2017

Published: 31st December 2017 02:22 AM  |   Last Updated: 31st December 2017 08:38 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

The senior wrestling National championship made headlines even before it started. Sushil Kumar — India’s most decorated wrestler — was making a comeback to the mat after three years. The buzz is justified, as a 34-year-old coming back, is the best way for a sport to move forward in any country.
And so, it started. After breezing past his opponents in the initial stages, Sushil did something spectacular. The two-time Olympic medallist took a leaf out of  superstar Rajinikanth‘s book when he slammed three people at the same time. The move was so special that Rajini himself called Sushil up and asked him for tips.  

The move became history. The wrestlers pitted against Sushil faced heavy scrutiny for not following the parampara or tradition of giving walkovers. After all, walkovers boost the mental confidence of senior wrestlers and help in bagging medals at the highest level.

The World Championships in August was full of surprises. A strong 24-member contingent had reached de Bercy’s wrestling centre a few days prior to the start of the tournament.

Rigorous practice there benefitted a lot of grapplers as everyone reached the final round. Bajrang Punia and Sakshi Malik were the only gold medallists in Paris. All the others had to settle for silver. The success in the Asian Championships held in New Delhi before the World Championships played a key role in Paris. With the Commonwealth and Asian Games coming up, India was looking forward to 2018.

The Asian Championships were well organised. Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh was kind enough to invite journalists to see how clean the facility and the toilets were. But the best part was when he handled a small situation. Some people without tags or accreditation were spotted very close to where the bouts were happening. Brij Bhushan politely took the mike and requested them to step outside. Not with a threatening tone. He could have but chose not to.

Indian wrestling’s discipline quotient went to a whole new level during the selection trials for the upcoming Commonwealth Games. Again, Sushil was in the thick of things. After Parveen Rana gave Sushil a walkover, Sushil went and congratulated Rana’s entire crew. Some of them, especially elders and family members, who were accompanying Rana, were gifted with comfortable chairs. Rana paid his respects by gifting Sushil a golden tooth. He was sobbing after the loss and apologised to Sushil for not giving a walkover in the Nationals. While violent brawls among fans of two superstars happen in every other country during such selection trials, everybody present here had a great get-together and dispersed peacefully.

***

Another sport in which India did well was Tennis. Ramkumar Ramanathan and Yuki Bhambri went on to win Citi Open in Washington and Antalya Open in Turkey by beating players like Gael Monfils and Dominic Thiem. To honour achievements like this, the AITA did its part too. Tennis is an expensive sport and the season is long. So, to ease the pressure on players, AITA, like many other associations, started helping players financially and professionally. Rohan Bopanna was the most consistent.
He won the French Open mixed doubles title in June alongside Canada’s Gabriela Dabrowski for the sixth time in a row. But Leander Paes was a step above all this. Even at 44. His friendship with Mahesh Bhupathi, who was now the non-playing captain of the Indian Davis Cup team, was back to its best. The bromance was confirmed when Bhupati posted some lovely social media conversations citing the reasons behind Paes’ selection in the team.  “Deserving bro. Don’t let me down.”, one of them read.

***

Indian athletics had a great year too. Multiple medals in various disciplines across events. One of the reasons behind the success was the great rapport between the Athletics Federation of India (AFI) and the athletes. They never missed a National camp and were like family. The athletes were even allowed to bring their own personal coaches to the national camps. That was reflected in the performance as well. Javelin star Davinder Singh Kang —  one of India’s finalists at the 2017 World Championships — was given special recognition and included in the list of 107 athletes to be supported by the government under the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS). He was also offered special coaching in Italy.
The above article is a piece of satire and is not intended to offend anyone. All quotes are imaginary It should be taken in the right spirit.

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