Commonwealth Games 2018: Sushil Kumar makes a strong comeback
When Julius Caesar once won the Battle of Zela without a sweat, he said in a letter to the Roman Senate, 'Veni, Vidi, Vici': I came, I saw, I conquered.
Little did he know that an Indian wrestler would one day follow the maxim in his journey to a third, successive Commonwealth Games gold medal. But that marked the comeback of legendary wrestler Sushil Kumar Solanki, who didn't even take full 90 seconds to pummel his opponent, Johannes Botha from South Africa in the finals of the Men's Freestyle [74 kg.] wrestling at the Commonwealth Games 2018.
For a man whose career was in the doldrums following his infamous standoff for a ticket to the Rio Olympics with now suspended wrestler Narsingh Pancham Yadav, Sushil's journey to the gold wasn't easy. However, with a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, Sushil Kumar has surely a strong comeback on the right note and will be optimistic for the other important events lying ahead for him in the year of 2018.
Not a rosy journey to Gold
Though remarkable, thanks to his willpower and skills on the mat, Sushil's journey to the gold medal was not a bed of roses. Before making the cut for the Commonwealth Games, Sushil had to face the turmoil of not making it to Rio 2016, courtesy the legal mess between him and Narsingh Pancham Yadav, where he got little to no support from any side.
To add further salt to his wounds, Narsingh was accused of doping, and though he claimed innocence, accusing rival parties of attempting to sabotage his appearance at Rio, he was debarred from competing at the Olympics a day before his bout, along with a 4-year ban at the behest of the Court of Arbitration for Sport, when World Anti Doping Agency filed a case against the clean chit given to him.
When Sushil decided to make a comeback, his launchpad, the National Championships, was affected too by three back-to-back walkovers, where the wrestlers, who held him in regard, just touched his feet and walked away. When he won his bout against Parveen Rana in the finals, his supporters went berserk and engaged in a brawl with Parveen when he attempted to file a protest against the alleged discrepancy.
In such a tumultuous environment, maintaining the focus on the mat wasn't easy. However, the way that Sushil has won, first at Commonwealth Championships 2017, and later on at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, clearly signifies that he is far from finished.
Sushil's calendar for 2018
With this memorable win, Sushil is now set for an action-packed year ahead in 2018. He will take a long break before he faces competition at the upcoming Asian Games, to be held at Jakarta from 18th August onwards. Sushil, who has only one bronze medal from the Doha Asiad to his credit, will look forward to changing the color in these Games.
Since he faces almost negligible competition at these Games, except for a couple of wrestlers from either Uzbekistan or Iran, it shouldn't be a tough task for him to take away a historic gold medal from here either.
Following the Asian Games would be the much-touted World Wrestling Championships, to be held in early October at Tehran, where Sushil would aim to reclaim his title after 8 long years. Even a podium finish here would help his confidence a lot for the upcoming 2019 when the qualifiers for Tokyo Olympics would actually begin.
Can Sushil create history at Tokyo?
One cannot be too optimistic, but given his conviction towards the sport, as well as the intensity of his wrestling on the mat, we can't rule out the possibility of Sushil Kumar Solanki creating history at Tokyo Olympics by winning a gold medal either! If there is someone who can fulfil the coveted dream of every Indian wrestler, it is him.
One must not forget that he is, as of now, the only Indian wrestler ever who has won a medal at all the major wrestling tournaments, be it the Asian Games, or World Championships, or even the Summer Olympics. Yes, he might be 37 years old by the time he makes it to Tokyo 2020, but for Sushil, age is just a number.
Interestingly, unlike his category of 66 kg., eliminated before Rio Olympics, Sushil has very few competitors who could actually give him a run for his money. However, they're tough competitors nonetheless, the best among them being world champion Jordan Burroughs, who has hardly lost a World Championship since 2015.
Barring his debacle at Rio Olympics, he is still a threat to any competitive wrestler. Sushil would need to be in the best of spirits, just like he did in 2010 when he pummeled Alan Gogaev of Russia by 2-1 to win a historic gold medal at the World Wrestling Championships of 2010.
Thankfully, the gold medalist of Rio Olympics, Hassan Yazdani, of Iran, has moved up to the 86 kg. category, so if Sushil wants to make it out at Tokyo 2020, he has to be in the same form he has displayed at Commonwealth Games 2018, even better if possible. With that, one hopes for the best, as Sushil Kumar comes back for other challenges by August.