Remembering Yogeshwar Dutt's brilliant final act in London 2012 that brought a billion people to their feet
On the penultimate day of the Games of the XXX Olympiad in London, 29-year-old Yogeshwar Dutt scripted history by becoming only the third wrestler ever from India to win an Olympic medal. It was the greatest moment in the sporting career of the Delhi-based police officer, who stretched the nation’s medal tally at the 2012 Games to a quite respectable five (which was further added to on the following day by fellow wrestler Sushil Kumar’s silver to cap off India’s most successful Olympic campaign ever in terms of medal count).
But it was Yogeshwar’s wrestling on the mat that was the most memorable, as he emerged victorious with a pulsating final move that brought all Indians to their feet. The people of this country may not know much about the technicalities of wrestling, but they could certainly understand and appreciate the rapid-fire leg twists that Yogeshwar inflicted on his opponent in the dying seconds of the bronze medal match. It was one of the most exhilarating phases of play every seen by Indian sports fans, and today in Rio Yogeshwar will hope to do a repeat of that in the 65kg category.
Featuring in the 60 kg Freestyle category of Men’s wrestling at the London Games, Yogeshwar arrived at the Exhibition Centre London on the 11th of August, 2012, to kick-start his 3rd appearance at the Olympics. His draw was a tricky one – getting past Anatolie Ilarionovitch Guidea of Bulgaria in the Qualifiers brought him head-to-head with four-time World Champion Besik Kudukhov of Russia, who proved too hot for Dutt in their Round of 16 contest that concluded 2-0 to Kudukhov.
With Yogeshwar’s journey seemingly on the verge of a premature termination, the Rule of Repechage kicked in as a result of Kudukhov’s progress to the Gold medal bout. Hoping to emulate compatriot Sushil’s 2008 Beijing bronze, Dutt edged past Puerto Rican Franklin Gomez in Repechage Round 1 and followed that up with a welcome upset of Iranian Masoud Esmaeilpour Jouybari to earn a shot at the bronze medal.
North Korea's Ri Jong Myong being the only thing standing between Yogi and his maiden Olympic bronze, the Indian stepped on to the mat for the 5th time of the day, with his right eye so battered from his earlier exploits that it was difficult to say whether his vision was still in order.
But the inflammation wouldn’t have hurt as bad as the ringside single-leg takedown at the end of 100 seconds that gave the opening point and in turn the 1st period to the Korean grappler.
Fighting the 2nd period to stay in the hunt by enforcing a decider, Yogeshwar tested Myong’s evasive skills to the limit before dragging him down onto the mat to earn his 1st point inside 80 seconds. 1-0 up in the 2nd period, Dutt held strong to run down the clock and get his overall score back even with the North Korean’s.
As play resumed for the 3rd and final period, it was the Indian who upped the ante to get Myong fleeing for cover. Possibly sensing the firmness of his grip over proceedings, Yogi wasted no longer than 40 seconds and hurled the Korean down onto the middle of the circle to score his first point of the decider.
Refusing to settle with the solo mark, Dutt locked his arms around Myong’s legs from behind, and applied a series of brilliant twists that sent the man-in-blue rolling over the floor of the ExCeL Arena. With his coach screaming instructions from the technical area, Yogeshwar Dutt leapt to six brilliantly scored points that sealed the bout in his favour.
As the 5 ft 7 inch-tall man celebrated his London 2012 Olympic bronze, India had found its newest wrestling hero – Yogeshwar Dutt, the dreamer whose journey had begun two decades back, at the tender age of 8, in the lesser-known Bhainswal Kalan village of Sonipat, Haryana.