This piece was published in Sportskeeda
The absence of iconic wrestler Sushil Kumar has effectively meant that the mantle of spearheading the country’s challenge in the upcoming Incheon Asian Games rests on Yogeshwar Dutt. The 31-year-old gangling wrestler from Haryana will be looking to live up to the expectations of billions fans and corner India’s first wrestling gold in Asian Games in 28 years. The 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist and the twice Commonwealth Games gold medallist wrestler has recently shifted to a new weight category – 65-kg – after featuring in the 60-kg category for most part of his international career.
Yogeshwar - India’s best bet for a gold medal in the upcoming Asiad - spoke to Sportskeeda in an exclusive interview.
Q How are you shaping up for the upcoming Incheon Asian Games?
By God’s grace everything has been going well for me as for my other team members. We are lending finishing touches to our preparations for the Asian Games and hope to come home with a decent bag of medals. I just need to stay focused and remain injury-free and results will be good.
Q At the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games you had a fairly easy run outclassing your opponents en route to gold. You were hardly stretched in the tournament.
I agree that I did not have to break much sweat in Glasgow. I remember beating my Canadian opponent 10-0 in the final bout. I guess I did not let complacency creep into my game and was better prepared than most others.
Q You have grappled in the 60-kg category for most part of your career – you won bronze in the 2006 Asiad, reached the quarterfinals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, won gold in the 2010 New Delhi Commonwealth Games and bronze in the 2012 London Olympics. Now you have shifted to the 65-kg category recently in the CWG. Any significant adjustments you have to make to your game?
Not really. It’s all about adjusting to the new weight category and I have done it well so far. You saw at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games how I fared in the 65-kg category. I’m bullish about making a podium finish in the upcoming Asian Games in this weight category.
Q Tell us a bit about your favourite leg-twisting technique, which you employed so effectively first in the 2012 London Olympics and later in the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.
It’s a technique that has worked well for me so far and I happy about it. It always helps to surprise your opponent.
Q You lost your father a few days before you boarded the flight for the 2006 Doha Asian Games, where you scooped up a bronze. Your memories.
It was a traumatic period for me but I overcome that huge personal loss in the best possible manner winning a medal - bronze for my country. That medal was hugely satisfying given the circumstances.
Q India’s only double Olympic medallist wrestler Sushil Kumar has chosen to give the upcoming Incheon Asian Games a miss. How much will the team miss his absence?
Sushil Kumar is a sure shot medal hope for India and obviously the team will miss his absence. We minus Sushil will strive hard to make the country proud and ensure his absence does not dent our morale in any way.
Q How do you assess the competition from other countries in the Incheon Asian Games?
Every wrestler is training hard and it will not be easy. Grapplers from Iran, Japan, Korea, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan will be formidable opponents and Indian wrestlers are also best in the business. We hope to bag at least 4 or 5 medals - a gold medal is a realistic possibility, something we have not been able to attain since Kartar Singh last achieved the feat in the 1986 Seoul Asiad.
Q What’s your take on the latest rule changes implemented by the world wrestling body?
I believe the rule changes are going to benefit the Indian wrestlers in a big way. The new rule changes will ensure no wrestler takes his bout for granted as anything can happen in the final round. Indian grapplers are known for their solid endurance and we will richly reap the benefits of it.
Q Finally, when will you shed the ‘eligible bachelor’ tag?
I will think about it after the 2016 Rio Olympics. For now, I want to stay focused on wrestling as I’m determined to come up with all guns blazing in the Asian Games as well as in other major international tourneys – the biggest being the 2016 Olympics.