You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
In spite of being hurt by Sports Minister MS Gill’s snub to his coach just a few days before the Commonwealth Games (CWG), Sushil Kumar went on to win a gold for our country. Society meets the wrestling phenomenon
Just before his final bout, he was called for a random dope test and made to drink lots of water which led to a severe tummy upset. However, Sushil Kumar Solanki went on to win the gold medal in the 66 freestyle wrestling at the Commonwealth Games. 7-0 was his score against Heinrich Barnes of South Africa in the finals and not to forget, the champion took only nine seconds to beat his opponent Famara Jarjou of Gambia in the semi finals.
A hero like him deserves to be honoured, but the Minister of Sports MS Gill humiliated Kumar’s guru, Satpal Singh just 19 days before the commencement of the CWG. The incident happened when Sushil Kumar Solanki created history by becoming the first Indian to win a gold medal at the FILA 2010 World Wrestling Championships in Moscow. His winning was a result of his hard work and vigorous training under his guru Padmashree Mahabali Satpal Singh. But when the guru and his disciple went to meet the minister, Gill snubbed the coach. In an apparent snub to the Dronacharya awardee wrestling coach Satpal Singh, MS Gill asked him to step aside during a photo opportunity with the gold medalist wrestler Sushil Kumar.
This is not the first time Gill has insulted a coach, it has happened in the past too. Reports state that in 2008, Saina Nehwal’s coach Gopichand had a similar experience when he came to meet Gill along with Saina after the Olympics. Gill, unsure of Gopichand’s credentials, had asked the All England Champion, “Who are you?” Naturally, Sushil Kumar was quite upset. But like a good student, he said, “Everybody felt whatever happened was not right and you (media) people know this better than me. Our country has a deep value system and a teacher is given the highest respect and I too believe in that. I am just a player and it is better for a player not to get involved in such things.” Sushil clearly wanted to let go of the past.
And he did. Like a true sportsman, he came out of this with a gold medal for India. He is an introvert and modest in his talks, but once he is inside the boxing ring, he is fiery and brawny and topples his opponent in no time.
Kumar, who hails from Baprola, a village in Najafgarh, is the son of an MTNL bus driver, who also happens to be a great wrestler, but could not make it big. Though Sushil hails from a family of wrestlers, it was his cousin Sandeep’s success at the national level that inspired him. Sushil started his wrestling when he was just a 14-year-old. He learnt wrestling at the renowned Satpal Pahalwan Akhara, where admission was free. Sushil went on to receive the Arjuna award in 2006 and the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2009. His first success came at the World Cadet Games in 1998 where he won the gold medal. He followed this up with a gold medal in the Asian Junior Wrestling Championship in 2000. He won gold at the CWG in 2003, 2005 and 2007. He had the honour to hand over the Queen’s baton to Prince Charles in the CWG Opening ceremony in Delhi this year. With so many medals in his kitty, Sushil has not let fame rule over him.
He has received many offers from reality shows like Nach Baliye and Dus Ka Dum, but he doesn’t want to miss out on his practice sessions and wants to prove his mettle only through wrestling. The champion’s day starts with four hours of vigorous practice in the morning and ends with four more hours in the evening. “My life is from my room to the mat and from the mat to my room. You know, I didn’t even have a cell phone before the 2008 Olympics,” says Kumar.
The Nawab of Najafgarh, Virender Sehwag had joked in one of his interviews that he would never have dared to break his window glass. “He used to stay in Najafgarh and we used to see him practise. But I never dared to break the glass of his house while playing cricket as I used to be extremely scared of him.”
This simple man’s secret to success and good health is also simple—sticking to the basics, working hard and eating healthy. Contrary to popular belief that to build a body and strength of a wrestler, it is essential to eat meat, Sushil is a pure vegetarian and loves salads, milk, butter and curd. With simple living and high thinking being his mantra, he has charted an impressive success story in no time. Kudos!
( Published in Society Nov ’10, Page No. 56 )