What's the story?
Sunil Kumar, who recently won a gold medal in Men's 87kg Greco-Roman wrestling at the Asian Wrestling Championship, stressed on the importance of mental conditioning and the role it played in his triumph.
Indian grapplers are well-known for winning medals in Freestyle Wrestling. However, times are changing and India's Greco-Roman wrestlers were also highly impressive at the recently concluded 2020 Asian Wrestling Championship in New Delhi.
Ashu and Aditya Kundu bagged a Bronze each in the Men's Greco-Roman 67 kg and 72 kg, respectively. Hardeep Singh also won a Bronze medal in the Men's Greco-Roman 97 kg category while Arjun Halakurki won it in the lightest 55 kg category.
However, Sunil Kumar garnered all the limelight and came to the forefront as he won a gold medal in Men's Greco-Roman 87 kg. The 21-year-old from Haryana ended India's 27-year-old wait for a gold in Greco-Roman at the Asian Wrestling Championship. India's last Greco-Roman gold was won by Pappu Yadav in the 48kg category - long back in 1993.
Kumar lit up the Indira Gandhi stadium as he routed Azat Salidinov in the summit clash.
The heart of the matter
Speaking on the fantastic triumph and his preparation behind it, Sunil Kumar told TOI:
"There is no doubt that my hard work paid off but mental conditioning is that aspect of the game which we normally don't speak about. Much of the credit for the gold goes to that. We normally overlook the aspect of mental fitness, but having a steady and calm head over your shoulders is really important, especially in big ticket events."
Sunil also analyzed the game plan of his opponents really well en route to the gold. In the semifinal bout, he was up against Kazakhstan's Azamat Kustubayev, who he had also faced in 2019. The young grappler knew that Azamat would come hard at him in the initial period but at the same time he had low endurance. Kumar took full advantage of this in the last period and the bout transpired exactly how he had thought it would.
Speaking on the semifinal bout, the Haryana-born grappler added:
"What was important for me at that point was to keep my focus and not get carried away. That's where mental fitness comes in and I am glad I could overpower him to reach the final."
Also Check out: 2020 Tokyo Olympics Schedule
Sunil Kumar will now be looking to secure an Olympic berth. He has already started preparing for the continental qualifiers.
"I am leaving for Azerbaijan tonight (Thursday) for a month-long training before the qualifiers. The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) has been a great support for all of us. Our foreign coach Temo Kasarashvili has been instrumental in our rise and I hope to continue the momentum as we approach the qualifiers," he signed off.
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