Swept under the mat: Beyond Sushil & Yogeshwar, a thinning line of reserves
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Even when he is not competiting, Sushil remains the central attraction. When India's only double Olympic medallist turned up at the wrestling nationals, everybody, from the volunteers to the fans and even the referees rushed to have a glimpse and take a snap. The focus had shifted completely from the three mats on which the event was still going on, but it is to be expected when Sushil is around.
Just ask Pradeep Kumar, Sushil's sparring partner, and the one who shares living space with the champion during the national camps. The only time he gets his chance to shine in the 66kg freestyle category is when Sushil isn't participating. And unfortunately for Pradeep, when the chance has come his way, he hasn't grabbed it. At the 2010 Asian Games, Pradeep crashed out in the quarterfinals and failed in the repechage bouts to bag bronze. At the 2011 Commonwealth Championships, he had to settle for silver.
This time too he went down to Manoj Kumar in the finals. And according to national coach Yashvir Singh, time might be running out for the 26-year-old wrestler.
And for India, too, if they hope to perform as well in Rio as they did in London. For Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt will be 33 and 34 respectively, but the pretenders are no where in the reckoning.
"We have very little back up for this position. Pradeep hasn't been doing that great and Praveen Rana might go up a weight division," he says. Rana had won gold in the inaugural Hari Ram Wrestling Grand Prix in 66kg and is mulling a move to the 74kg division. The thinning reserves aren't a problem just in this division.
In the 74 kg division too the situation is bleak. Narsingh Yadav is yet to show his 2010 form when he won the Asian Championship and CWG gold. Sumit Sehrawat, who had beaten 2009 Worlds bronze medallist Ramesh Kumar, is facing a ban for testing positive for methylhexamine, while Ramesh is out of reckoning.
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