LONDON: He was India's flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics, and Sushil Kumar ended the Games on a historic note even though he missed out on a gold medal. Sushil lost to Japan's Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the 66kg freestyle wrestling final today, but made history by becoming the the first Indian to win two individual Olympic medals. Sushil had won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
A day after his childhood friend Yogeshwar Dutt won the bronze medal in the 60kg category, Sushil was in fine form until the final, where was overpowered and outclassed by a stronger opponent on the day and lost 1-3 in the gold final bout.
Sushil looked jaded in the final and his fresher opponent took advantage of that. Going into the fight, Sushil had played nine periods while Yonemitsu seven.
Yonemitsu, a silver medallist at the World Championships last year, won the first period 1-0 and displayed his dominance in the second by lifting Sushil and putting him down on the mat. The move earned him three points and he won the period 4-1 and thereby the gold.
Raj Singh, the Secretary General of the Wrestling federation of India told PTI after the final that Sushil had a bout of diarrhoea after his semifinal bout and also vomited as something he had eaten did not agree with him. He also had a neck injury which he suffered during the semifinal against Kazakhstan’s Akzhurek Tanatarov but that did not affect him, according to Raj.
After the medal presentation ceremony, Sushil said he would have loved to hear India's national anthem at London. "Injuries are part and parcel of the game. But I would have loved to hear the national anthem here. The golden days of wrestling (however) are back," the 29-year-old told NDTV.
The silver medal is just reward for the hard-working Sushil, who sat out of competitions for nearly a year until September 2011 because of a shoulder injury, and then he was forced to change his fighting style at the start of 2012. Sushil also left his qualification for the London Games hanging in the balance until the last qualifying event, but he won the gold medal and then went on to write his name into the record books.
Earlier, Sushil edged out Kazakhstan's Akzhurek Tanatarov 3-1 in a thrilling semifinal, his third fight of the day. Tanatarov seemed the likely winner in the third and final period before Sushil fought back through grit and experience.
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With the Kazakh leading 3-0, Sushil came up with brilliant moves to leave Tanatarov reeling on the mat. The contest ended with the Indian winning the period 6-3 and his opponent bleeding from the right ear. Sushil had won the first period 3-0 and Kazakh levelled the fight in the second.
Sushil, the 2010 World Champion has muscled his way into the last four beating Ikhtiyor Navruzov of Uzbekistan 3-1. The 29-year-old started the day in a scintillating fashion, dismissing the Beijing gold medallist, Ramazan Sahin, in the opening round.
The 29-year-old's silver medal was India's sixth of the London Games, making it the country's most successful Olympics ever. The other Indians who shone in the London Games were shooters Vijay Kumar (silver) and Gagan Narang (bronze), boxer M.C. Mary Kom (bronze) and badminton star Saina Nehwal
(bronze), doubling India’s medals tally from the Beijing edition where it had won three medals. [Inputs from Agencies]