India’s fifth medal at London 2012 came from a Wrestler who made the most of his good fortune in the repechage rounds. That the medal is again a bronze, and could be of slight concern to diehard Olympic fans who wonder why these Games haven’t turned golden for India yet- was forgotten, thanks to 29 year old Yogeshwar Dutt’s lion-hearted and Kom-remnant performance in the Wrestling 60kg Freestyle category.
His brave display comes a day before India’s most famous wrestler and flag-bearer Sushil Kumar takes the ring- a day before India signs off in an Olympiad that has shown sort of an upward trend over the last 4 years. The Olympic Gold Quest and Mittal’s Champion Trust are slowly but surely turning the wheels.
While it is easy to remind the people that Dutt could have gone one better, Wrestling is one of the sporting categories where winning a Bronze is equally if not MORE difficult than winning a Gold medal. Winning a gold, of course, requires the wrestler to be unbeaten throughout- and after losing in the pre-quarterfinals (first round for Dutt), it takes immense physical and psychological strength to overcome the odds after your opponent reaches the final and gives you a repechage lifeline. To replenish your extinguished hopes and put it into a Bronze-winning possibility, requires a fair deal of acceptance and tunnel vision.
Dutt utilized this opportunity after Besik Kudukhov, the losing finalist, beat Dutt early- leaving the Haryana wrestler to contemplate his 3rd consecutive shot at an Olympic medal in tatters.
Fate intervened, and the Russian fought his way to the final. Dutt, who had promised to win a medal just days after the death of his father in 2006 (before the Asian Games), went on to fight 3 bouts in less than 60 draining minutes.
Even the finalists do not have such less time to prepare for their next bouts, and the Bronze hopefuls were put through the shredder, and made to really earn the last piece of metal. After Dutt beat World No. 2 Franklin Gomez in the first repechage round, not least because he won the toss on both occasions, he went on to beat Iranian Wrestler Esmaeilpoorjouybari in the second round- the same man who had beaten him in the Final of the Olympic qualification earlier this year.
If Indians were known to not overcome their mental demons and fall against more illustrious opponents, Dutt demonstrated a characteristic that was missing in our Archers and shooters like even Narang. He brought every bout down to the basics, outmaneuvering his opponents in the final round, and always fighting the second round with great understanding of what he must do.
After losing the first round against Korea’s Myong Ri by 1-0, Dutt kept himself afloat with a narrow 1-0 win in the second, and then absolutely demolished the clueless Korean in the third- after locking his legs and rotating him mercilessly to get a 6-0. Dutt, who looked tired by then, celebrated by a couple of acrobatic double somersaults- and this was a Champion that wasn’t much lesser than the wrestler that won the Silver or Gold.
He became India’s 3rd wrestler ever to win a Wrestling medal, carrying on India’s recent streak of Commonwealth and Asian Golds over to the Olympics- and replicating the charge that Sushil Kumar started in late 2007. All 3 medals have been Bronze medals- a sign of how Indian Wrestlers are anything but mentally fragile. Come-from-behind wins are what they’re about so far, and it is upto people like Kumar who must prove that they possess that crucial extra percent of drive.
Dutt was a gold medalist at the 2010 Commonwealth Games too, much like the other medal winners for India in London. Dutt had reached the quarterfinals in Beijing, losing to Japan’s Yumuto and finishing 9th. This was arguably his last chance, and he took it down to the very last seconds of his time in London, to win a medal that remained elusive throughout his 20 year career.