NEW DELHI: India might have finished with their best-ever medal haul at the Wrestling World Championships in the Kazakh city of Nur-Sultan — five medals, including one silver and four bronze — but two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar disappointed once again. And talks of whether he is past his prime have resurfaced once again.
Sushil admitted that he was not ready for the Worlds this time around, and was egged on by new coach Kamal Malikov to participate. “I wasn’t willing to go to the World Championships. But my coach suggested that I should participate in all tournaments available from here on,” the 36-year-old grappler said on the sidelines of launching ZEE Kushti Dangal. “I knew I wasn’t ready to compete at that level as I had just two months of training behind me. My body wasn’t ready.”
The Padma Shri awardee has had a hard time of late. He struggled at the last Asian Games. He was knocked out in the first round of Asian Championship in April. At this Worlds, he lost to Azerbaijan’s Khadzdimurad Gadzhiyev in the first round of 74 kg category.
The director at Chhatrasal Stadium opined that he was late in getting back to training, something which cost him. “I think I made a mistake by starting my training late for World Championships. I should have started right after the Asian Championships. My coach told me that I needed 90 days of training to gain full fitness, but I started late. I underwent just two months of training,” explained Sushil.
At this Worlds, Sushil had taken a 9-4 lead in his bout but ended up losing 11-9. “When I look back at my bout, I think I made a mistake by taking a defensive stance in the last minute. I should have opted for an offensive strategy. My game was the only mistake I made,” he said. “I got a very tough draw as well. There were at least 10 wrestlers of the same quality in my half.”
But the Delhi wrestler is improving and feels that he is on the way to regaining his old form. Sushil has lost weight and is working hard on improving his speed. And he has definitely not given up on his dream to win gold in Tokyo and answering his critics in the way he knows best: on the mat.
“I know there are speculations on my retirement for a while now. But I believe that as long as a wrestler has the guts to stand on the mat, he should continue playing. Despite the setback, I feel I am in better shape right now. I am ready to give it my all.”