SUSHIL KUMAR, 29
WRESTLING, 66 KG MEN’S FREESTYLE Baprola, Haryana
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.”