SUSHIL KU­MAR, 29

WRESTLING, 66 KG MEN’S FREESTYLE Baprola, Haryana

India Today - - SPORTS -

SPORT­ING STYLE He crouches down and stares into the eyes of the op­po­nent as if try­ing to gain ac­cess into the in­ner re­cesses of his mind. As he grap­ples with his ri­val, cir­cling around the pit, each waits to catch the other of­f­guard. In a quick flash, Sushil Ku­mar lashes out, suc­cess­fully pin­ning down his ri­val. This un­ex­pected burst of en­ergy mixes brute strength with mind games.

HIS STORY The Ra­jiv Gandhi Khel Ratna re­cip­i­ent, who couldn’t af­ford even a pair of train­ing shoes early on in his ca­reer, sur­prised ev­ery­one by clinch­ing bronze at the Bei­jing Olympics in 2008. But re­cur­ring shoul­der in­juries kept him from qual­i­fy­ing for the 2012 Games in his first two at­tempts. He fi­nally earned his ticket to Lon­don on his third at­tempt at the World Qual­i­fy­ing Tour­na­ment in Taiyuan, China, in April. Ku­mar will be the flag­bearer for the In­dian con­tin­gent at the open­ing

cer­e­mony in Lon­don. This hon­our should spur him on to leap up the podium.

VAN­TAGE POINT Ag­gres­sion and agility have been Ku­mar’s strengths and he is the coun­try’s best bet for a gold medal in wrestling. He de­feated Otar Tushishvilli of Ge­or­gia, who shared the bronze with him at Bei­jing, at the qualifiers in Taiyuan.

CHAL­LENGE AHEAD The grap­pler may face a tough fight from de­fend­ing Olympic cham­pion Ra­mazan Sahin of Tur­key, reign­ing world cham­pion Mehdi Tagari of Iran, and sil­ver medal­list Tat­suhiro Yone­mitsu of Ja­pan.

OLYMPIC RUN- UP The re­cent Colorado Springs, US, train­ing camp gave Ku­mar an op­por­tu­nity to test his skills against com­pet­ing nations and work on phys­i­cal as well as tech­ni­cal as­pects of the game. It also gave him a chance to build his en­durance and fit­ness lev­els, which pre­vi­ously pre­vented him from qual­i­fy­ing for the Games.

“Speed and power are my strong points. Now that I have reached the peak of my fit­ness lev­els, my chances at the Games are very good.”

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