"I can never be satisfied with my performance. I have to learn wrestling like a student, the desire to learn can never end." These were the first words of wrestler Jitender Kumar when our conversation began. Jitender Kumar fights in the 74 kg category in which veteran Sushil Kumar has stamped his domination over the years and thus, Jitender Kumar's name is an unexplored one for the fans.
Jitender's career has been a bumpy ride thus far. In 2012, Jitender went to a pharmacist who offered him an energy drink. Two weeks later, the then teen wrestler won the silver medal at the national championship albeit the future which awaited him was unpleasant. The anti-doping agency collected his urine sample which tested positive, he was handed a 2-year ban after which he made up his mind to not return to the mat.
For the first few days, the wrestler from Haryana didn't even step out of his house but once his coach took him to a local akhara, the memories flooded him and couldn't hold back his tears. Fast forward to 2020, almost eight years from that incident, Jitender Kumar has won a silver medal in the 74 kg category at the Asian Wrestling Championships. With his performance, he also earned a berth in the Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.
In an exclusive conversation with Sportskeeda, Jitender Kumar narrates his tale of struggle, success and the Olympic dream.
Q. During your childhood, when did you think of wrestling as a career option?
My father used to wrestle in the army. His dream was to become a good wrestler. Owing to this, I started wrestling and began enjoying it.
Q. What were the struggles which you had to endure while growing up?
According to me, the story of everyone in the sports world is the same.There's no guidance in the beginning and then comes the financial burden. This sport does not get much respect in the society. People used to come and advice me to quit the game, this has happened many times. This is not just my story, this must have happened with all sportspersons in India.
Q. Both, you and Sushil Kumar fight in the 74 kg category, how do you get along with him?
Yes, both me and Sushil Kumar fight in the same 74 kg category but this is not a fight. Sushil Kumar is the pride of the nation and I have utmost respect for him.
Q. For you, what is the importance of an Olympic medal?
For the Olympic qualifiers, I am working hard with my coach and Bajrang bhai is also helping me a lot. How can I put this in words? Perhaps an Olympic medal would be as same as the happiness that a student gets when he gets a merit rank.
Q. The nation is backing you after your performance at the Asian Championships, any message which you want to give?
Yes, I'm glad that the people are supporting me. I want the support of the countrymen, I want them to keep trusting me and supporting me, that would help me to gain confidence and to perform better.
Published 29 Feb 2020, 19:22 IST