How an injured Yogeshwar Dutt realised his Olympics dream at London 2012
For Yogeshwar Dutt, London 2012 was a “Now Or Never” situation. In his third Olympics now, the Indian grappler, hailing from the small village of Gohana in the Sonipat district of Haryana, did fairly well in his past two Olympic games that he competed in.
Participating in the Athens Olympics as a 21-year-old in the 55 kg class in freestyle wrestling Yogeshwar finished in the 18th position. Improving his performance in Beijing, Yogeshwar finished 9th in the 60Kg class losing out 3-6 in the quarterfinals to Kenichi Yumoto of Japan.
His performance, however showed a steady improvement each year. Thus, all eyes were on him to go one step further and deliver a medal for India in London 2012.
To Yogeshwar, after getting so near and yet so far in Beijing, London seemed as good an opportunity as there has ever been to fulfill a childhood dream to stand on the podium at the Olympic Games and claim a medal for his country, a dream that he had dreamt ever since he was an 88-year-oldas he started wrestling in his local “akhara” seemed so near for the now 29-year-old from Haryana.
The Early Stages
Training and build up to the games were great and the first round provided no surprises as the technical skills of the 29-year-old provided to be far superior to his Bulgarian opponent Anatolin Guidea, winning the bout 3-1 by technical points. However, in the second round, Yogeshwar was pitted against a far superior opponent in the form of reigning world champion, Besik Kudukhov, where he was totally outwrestled and lost 3-0 on technical points.
His Olympics dream lay shattered in front of him and any other wrestler in the world would have given up hope. However, as the Russian proved his mettle, reaching the finals and the repechage system provided yet another opportunity for him to prove his mettle on the world stage.
He took it upon himself as a sign from god, one final chance to fulfill his dreams of an Olympic medal for his nation and he took it upon himself to deliver. In the first repechage, Yogeshwar duly delivered to the hopes of the nation, defeating Franklin Gomez of Puerto Rico 3-0 on points thus advancing to the second round of the repechage.
But the fight against the bulky Puerto Rican had taken his toll on Yogeshwar as he injured his right eye and was barely able to see. But Yogeshwar was not one to back down. His will and desire kept him going as he beat his opponent Masoud Ismaeilpour of Iran 3-1.
Ismaielpour had previously beaten the Indian at the Asian Championships the same year but the Olympics was a different stage and provided a different result.
The Final Hurdle
Finally the moment of truth was here, Yogeshwar’s dream of claiming an Olympic medal for his country was just one step away now and all that stood between him and his dream was Ri Jong Myong of North Korea. Could he do it? Yogeshwar was now in his 3rd bout in 45 minutes and the North Korean was the clear favourite according to many.
And it showed as Yogeshwar lost the first round of the fight 1-0, but he kept going and claimed a point off the North Korean in the next round, beating him 1-0. Thus it was all down to third and final round.
All those days of training at the akhara, all the pain and the training came down to this moment and Yogeshwar was ready for it. After losing out in the second round and now sporting a massive bulge on top of his right eye, against all odds, he gave his best in this final round.
Yogeshwar completely dismantled the North Korean 6-0 in just 1 minutes and 2 seconds with his deadly leg hold and roll. India got its 5th medalist in London and the most dramatic one in the Games. Yogeshwar’s dream had finally come true.
With a broad smile on his face, the quiet village boy from Haryana was now an icon for his country as he held the tri colors on his back and ran across the arena in London.
“I had to make it happen”, he said, when asked what was his motivation along the way. He stood tall on the podium in London claiming a historic Bronze for his country, a childhood dream realized.
What’s for the Future
Moving on, 4 years later, a veteran of the sports now, Yogeshwar has claimed that this time it would be “Gold or Nothing”. Let’s see if he can deliver to his promise yet again or would Rio Olympics prove a step too far for the 33-year-old.
Only time will tell but judging the man in question, none would bet against him.