From making India proud by winning medals in two different Olympics to becoming the main accused in a murder case, decorated wrestler Sushil Kumar has come a long way, and fans are left gutted with the big twist in his life. Sushil’s international success triggered a revolution and created an inspirational legacy. The reserved grappler from Najafgarh’s Baprola village is till date India’s only world champion (2010) in the sport. He is also the only one to claim two individual Olympic medals, an exceptional feat for a country that has seen very limited success at the Games. But, now the goodwill, respect, honour that Sushil earned so far in his career is at stake as for the nation he is not just an Olympic medalist but also an absconder in a murder case.
Son of DTC bus conductor, Sushil grew up in a non-descript village called Baprola on the outskirts of Delhi. He was inspired to take up the sport by his cousin Sandeep. However, Sandeep quit the sport because the family could support just one wrestler and Sushil was the chosen one. At the age of 14, Sushil started training at the Chhatrasal Stadium’s akhada under the guidance of pehalwans Yashvir and Ramphal and later by Arjuna awardee Mahabali Satpal Singh and then at the Railways camp by coach Gyan Singh. But it was not until he met former wrestler and Coach Satpal Singh, Sushil recognised his potentials in freestyle wrestling.
Where other international athletes had their own equipment and training facilities, Kumar had to struggle with whatever he could do by himself and the support of his Guru Satpal. Being a pure vegetarian, he couldn’t eat flesh which is a usual dose for wrestlers. However, his family supported him for his dreams by sending him tinned milk, Ghee, and fresh vegetables so that he doesn’t rely on mess meals only. But what made him unique was that he never thought of quitting his dreams despite the lack of facilities. Instead, Sushil toiled hard to earn success and eventually awarded victory in the year 2003 by dominating the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships and also won a bronze at the Asian Wrestling Championship.
Rise to Fame
In 2008, Sushil’s bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics had ended India’s 56-year-long wait for an Olympic medal in wrestling following which he became a household name by coming out of nowhere and landing India a bronze in the Olympics. From training in mud pits to sleeping with 20 other boys, it was a giant leap for the grappler. The achievement had a tremendous impact as Indian wrestling witnessed the rise of Yogeshwar Dutt, Geeta, and Babita Phogat, their cousin Vinesh, Rio bronze medallist Sakshi Malik and World medallists Bajrang Punia, Ravi Dahiya, and Deepak Punia after that. For the bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Sushil was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, India’s highest sporting honour.Sushil credits his ‘father figure’ Satpal, under whom he has trained for 13 years, as someone who has inculcated in him discipline and dedication. In 2010, Sushil created history when he became the first Indian to win a gold medal at the FILA World Wrestling Championships held in Moscow. The same year, he also competed at the Commonwealth Games and made everyone shell-shocked with his unfazed and undeterred performance as he clinched the gold medal. Owing to his superb show, Kumar was chosen to represent the nation by bearing the Indian flag in the 2012 London Olympics and once again made the country proud by winning a silver medal in the 66 kg category which was India’s third Olympic medal in wrestling. Sushil then went onto win gold medals in the 2014 and 2018 Commonwealth Games in the 74 kg category, thus creating a stack of 3 Commonwealth gold medals through his sturdy performances at three consecutive Games.
Sushil first made the headlines for all the wrong reasons when in 2016 he had been involved in a dispute with the national wrestling federation over the matter of representing India at the Rio Olympics. Although another wrestler — Maharashtra’s Narsingh Yadav — had won the quota, Sushil, by virtue of his record, had wanted trials to be held. Yadav eventually ended up failing a dope test just weeks before the Olympics. Yadav claimed he was the victim of conspiracy and filed an FIR accusing a young wrestler from Chhatrasal of tampering with his food. That case remains unresolved. Then in 2018, Sushil once again found himself stuck neck-deep in a swamp when following an ill-tempered bout, Sushil’s opponent Parveen Rana and his brother were assaulted by a group of people he said were supporters of the Olympic medalist. Rana and his brother ended up requiring hospital treatment and an FIR was registered against Sushil and his supporters.
Sushil Kumar is one of the accused in the Chhatrasal Stadium scuffle incident where Sagar Rana, a former junior national champion, lost his life on May 4. Sushil, who has been absconding since the night of the scuffle, is said to be involved in the incident where two factions of wrestlers allegedly opened fire on each other, leaving several injured and 23-year-old Sagar Rana dead. Following the incident, an FIR of murder, abduction, and criminal conspiracy was registered against Kumar. Meanwhile, the Delhi Police on Monday (May 17) said they will reward an amount of Rs one lakh to anyone, who can provide intel about two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar. The police have also stated that a sum of Rs 50,000 will be given to individuals, who will pass information regarding Ajay, also an accused in the same matter. As per the latest development in the case, Rohini Court in New Delhi will hear the anticipatory bail plea of two-time Olympic medalist Sushil Kumar on Tuesday (May 18) apropos the case. Of course, the case is under investigation and Sushil’s involvement needs to be proved in a court of law. He remains innocent until proven otherwise, but the events leading to Sagar’s death and Sushil’s subsequent disappearance have already tarnished the decorated wrestler’s image and reputation.