Guts and glory

Published: 28th July 2013 08:16 AM  |   Last Updated: 28th July 2013 08:16 AM   |  A+A-


Wrestlers, by archetypal norms, are gruff-voiced, stony-faced and brash-mannered. But Sushil Kumar is a pleasing anomaly, the guttural tone of his conversations, a curious splattering of Jat accented Hindi and English, is dotted with a rustic congeniality as men from villages usually are.

Outwardly, life might have changed beyond recognition for Sushil Kumar — for he can no longer preserve his anonymity. Social obligations have swelled — and he hardly desists. His mobile repeatedly buzzes “My life actually changed after the Beijing Olympics. Before that I was nobody. I could walk down the streets and hardly anybody recognised me, but now I’m mobbed wherever I go, people seek autographs, handshakes, tips etc. But I’m comfortable with that,” he said.

It’s the world around him that has changed rather. Inside, he remains himself — he practices as devotedly as he had in his rookie days, maintains his old friends, relishes the same old vegetables cooked by his mother and tinned buffalo milk and sleeps in the same dormitory as his teammates during the camp. He says he sometimes cries when watching the prime-time soap operas on his LCD screen, and listens to Kishore Kumar classics when slogging out at the Chhatrasal Academy.

He is least enamoured by the superficiality that accompanies fanfare and flummery. He is levelheaded to a fault. Remarkably, his detachment is not manufactured but intrinsic. He giggles at the very mention of the word “celebrity”. “Mein kya celebrity hoon yaar? It’s all about hard work and destiny. You need to have a bit of both to win medals. Till the last fight, a wrestler has to remain the same,” he said. Soon after the London Olympics, he was laid low by a right-shoulder injury, which saw him skip the Asian Wrestling Championship. “I have had a few shoulder injuries, before the Asian Games as well as the Olympics. Doctors had advised me to undergo an operation before the Olympics. Had I listened, I may not have won the silver. For surgeries make you weak.”

Now that the injury is almost healed, Sushil aspires to peak for the World Championship in Budapest in September.


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