NEW DELHI: As soon as Ravi Kumar Dahiya's image popped up on the small TV screen fitted inside New Delhi's Chhatrasal Stadium wrestling hall, a deafening roar went up. Whistles, and shouts of "Jay Bajrangbali", "Bharat Mata ki Jai" echoed across the hall.
As Chhatrasal's very own walked onto the mat, the sound which emanated from the two-hundred odd young wrestlers and a handful of coaches inside the hall was akin to the roar made by adoring fans during a Rajinikanth movie premiere! And it seemed like that as well with Dhols playing in the background while flower petals were being showered on everyone present inside the hall.
Evening practice was cancelled and all the kids rushed inside to watch. Despite their tender age, they kept shouting instructions.
But in the end, it was not meant to be as the grappler from Nahri in Haryana fell short of historic gold. Pin drop silence prevailed and very soon the hall was empty.
It seemed as if everyone had forgotten that the 23-year-old had become the third from the iconic stadium to stand on the coveted Olympics podium.
Coach Jaiveer Dahiya explained the rationale behind everyone's reaction. "We all were certain about gold. He is the best wrestler in the weight category and we know his strengths. He had even said prior to his departure that he would be bringing the gold medal back with him. We know he is not satisfied and now he will work even harder. But we are proud. An Olympic silver is a huge deal and we are all proud of our Ravi," the coach said as the dismay gave way to a beaming smile.
One glimpse inside the newly crowned Olympic silver medallist's room and one can spot a big picture of the Tokyo gold medal printed on an A4 size paper sheet and the national flag. His roommate and long-time sparring partner Arun Kumar were all praise for the World Championship bronze medallist.
"His single-minded focus and dedication is what separates him from the rest. He has not been to our village in a long time and I'm sure once he is back, he won't spend too much time at home and instead restart practice. The next time he steps onto the Olympic mat, the colour will be better for sure."
It was finally time for the medal ceremony and that was the signal for the party at Chhatrasal to finally kick off. A fair few kilos of Boondi and Ghevar was ordered as all the kids and coaches broke into an impromptu jig. Loudspeakers on full volume blared hit Punjabi tracks as everyone got down to show off their signature dance moves.
"Since Pehelwan ji's incident, the mood has been sombre. But today is a historic day and once again it seems like the Sun is shining on our sport and this academy. Hopefully, better days will follow from now on," Jaiveer said before disappearing back into the jubilant crowd.