A tough road ahead for Sushil Kumar
Following an impressive comeback at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games 2018, Sushil Kumar Solanki, the legendary wrestler who brought back wrestling into prominence with his back to back Olympic medals and a historic gold medal at the Wrestling World Championships 2010, looked all set to shut the mouths of his critics up with another brilliant performance at the Jakarta Asian Games 2018.
However, destiny had other plans for him. Like the surprise exit of wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt at Rio Olympics 2016, Sushil Kumar, despite earning a slender lead in the first half, squandered it away to Adam Batirov of Bahrain, who gave him a shock exit by defeating him with a score of 5-3.
This shock exit has not only gave a new lease of hope to his critics but also has made his quest for the ultimate glory, i.e. an Olympic gold medal, a distant dream for now. While there are many reasons for his current setback, if not downfall, following are some circumstances that will now shape up for this wrestler:-
No further exemption from trials
The one thing that we are absolutely sure about Sushil Kumar after this disastrous outing at Asian Games, is that he won't be exempted further from trials. Though he has practically no competition in the 74 kg. category, except for Parveen Rana, since the other contender, Narsingh Pancham Yadav, cannot return to the wrestling arena until 2020, Sushil Kumar will have to undergo the compulsory trials in order to prove his efficiency at the international stage.
2018 World Championships: Make or break for this wrestler
Following the disastrous outing at the Asian Games, Sushil Kumar will have to buck up real hard, if he seriously wants to be considered as a potential candidate for a historic Olympic gold at Tokyo Olympics 2020.
The next major tournament where Sushil can test his mettle is the upcoming Wrestling World Championships, to be held in late October at the Hungarian capital, Budapest. For Sushil, who used to skip tournaments at will due to fitness woes, this is a make or break moment, as if he fails here, the road to Tokyo 2020 shall turn very tough for him.
On paper, except for the World Champion Jordan Burroughs, or the Iranian and Uzbek wrestlers, there is no serious competition. However, for now, Sushil cannot take anyone lightly. On a realistic note, even if Sushil manages a mere podium finish, it will nothing less than phenomenal, and that can give him immense confidence for the following year, when the Olympic qualifiers, including the 2019 World Championships, shall take place.
Can he bring the Olympic gold?
Though he is down at the moment, one cannot afford to knock Sushil Kumar completely out of competition. Such setbacks are not abnormal for him. In 2011, he couldn't even defend his World Championship title, crashing out in the very second round. We all know what happened next year at the London Olympics.
In such a case, provided Sushil Kumar gives it his all, age won't matter at all, for he is still very capable enough to land up with an Olympic medal. Besides, he has an unfulfilled quest to complete: winning the first Olympic gold in wrestling for India, an opportunity which was robbed from him for dirty politics months before Rio Olympics 2016. Let's see if the World Championships 2018 sees the return of the legend or the downfall of a once great warrior.