Deaf and mute Virender Singh becomes India's only medallist by bagging gold in wrestling at Deaflympics
Virender Singh, a deaf-mute wrestler hailing from Delhi, won India’s only gold medal at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria, on Saturday. He competed in men’s 74kg freestyle event at the 22nd Summer Deaflympics.
The 28-year-old Virender defeated Oguz Donder of Turkey to defend his title. The bronze medals went to Hiavorh Adamian and Aleksandr Ochirovich Tsoktoev of Russia.
The deaf-mute wrestler, who hails from Delhi, grew up training with Olympics silver medallist Sushil Kumar. This was his third straight medal in the Games.
“It is a great victory for Virender,” said Sushil Kumar told Times Of India about the gold medal. “He is a very good wrestler and is even better in the traditional format (Kushti). Even now he practises with us at the Chhatrasal Stadium,” he continued.
When Asked about Virender’s chances of qualifying for the 2016 Rio Games, Sushil said: “It will be big challenge, but Virender is capable.”
Virender, known popularly as Goonga Pehelwan (mute wrestler in Hindi), has long emerged as the face of all deaf athletes in the country after repeatedly proving his mettle on the world stage.
After winning India’s first and only gold medal at the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne, Virender added a silver medal at the World Deaf Wrestling Championships in 2008 in Yerevan, Armenia to his tally too.
Virender, who is a clerk with the Haryana Power Corporation, is also professional wrestler who earns more from dangals (fights) where the prize money ranges from Rs. 5,000 to 100,000. “He fights 20-25 dangals a year,” said Vivek Chaudhary, a fan of Virender.
Vivek, who is currently working on a documentary ‘Goonga Pehelwan‘ with two of his friends, criticised the sports federation for overlooking him, saying, “He always fought able-bodied men and is the only deaf wrestler there. To be sidelined because of a hearing disability is a cruel irony.”
“The national coach rates him as one of India’s best wrestlers but the federation has never allowed him a chance to qualify for the Olympics saying that he can’t hear the referee’s whistle. The International Olympic Committee has clearly said that deaf wrestlers can compete, and the officials should modify the tournament rules so that the referee can communicate the decision to him.”
Vivek said they would soon take up the issue with the sports ministry and may file the PIL to ensure that he gets a fair trail to qualify for the Rio Olympics in 2016.