Q How does it feel winning a bronze medal in the World Wrestling Championship in the freestyle 74 kg category – the country’s first in this category since Ramesh Kumar garnered a bronze in the 2009 World Wrestling Championship in Denmark?
It feels great to do something for my country. Bahut badhiya lag raha hai! All our wrestlers gave their best and were unlucky not to be among the medals. I was happy to win a medal as it ensured we did not return home empty-handed. A lot of effort has gone in preparing for the World Wrestling Championship and I’m glad it paid off.
Q You are 26 and have been representing your country for a long while now. This was your fourth World Wrestling Championship – you lost in the second round of the 2010 World Wrestling Championship , you lost in the first round of the 2011 World Wrestling Championship and you lost in the second round of the 2013 World Wrestling Championship. And the 2015 World Wrestling Championship panned out to be the best-ever performance so far.
I made my debut in the 2010 World Wrestling Championship in Moscow, where Sushil Kumar gave India’s first gold medal in this big-ticket event. All my three appearances in the World Wrestling Championship have been a huge learning curve for me. The experience of playing in four World Wrestling Championships definitely helped coupled with my sustained hard work.
Q You launched your campaign in the 2015 World Wrestling Championship against Israel’s Hanoch Rachamin, a bout you won convincingly. You subsequently beat grapplers from Turkey, Cuba and France en route to your bronze medal finish. Which has been the most toughest bout for you?
Look, all bouts are tough as every country comes well prepared and gives nothing away. But I would say my quarterfinal bout against Cuba’s Liván López was the toughest among all – he is a 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist and three-time World Championship medallist and beating such a redoubtable opponent gave me immense satisfaction. The 16-5 final scoreline hardly reflects how intense the bout was.
It was a bout I should have won – I was leading 4-3 with five seconds remaining but Onorbat equalized and then went on to bout by virtue of winning the last point after both of us were tied 4-4.
Q Tell us a bit about your bronze medal play-off bout against France’s Zelimkhan Khadjiev where you endured some anxious moments.
I started well taking a 4-2 lead but Khadjiev rebounded to surge to a 12-4 lead after two rounds. I was with my backs to the wall and managed to pin my French opponent with a headlock and even though I was trailing him 8-12 on points, I was declared the winner by fall.
Q You have been in great form in the last couple of years – you won a bronze medal in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games as well as bronze in the 2015 Asian Championship in Doha – a hat-trick of bronze medals in 74 kg.
I think I’m playing solid wrestling and as I have said before all my hard work and international experience are coming in handy and they were big factors in winning the World Championship medal.
Q Talking of your 74 kg category, American Jordan Burroughs has been having a dominating presence for a long period - he is the current Olympic champion as well as the current world champion – three times World Championship gold medallist. Do you think he will be your biggest hurdle in your pursuit of winning an Olympic gold.
There is no doubt that Jordan Burroughs is a champion wrestler – he is tough to beat but definitely it is not impossible to overcome him.
Q Now that you have a bronze medal in 74 kg at the 2015 World Wrestling Championship, it will trigger more talk about who will represent India in this category at the 2016 Rio Olympics as iconic Sushil Kumar is also being fielded in this category.
For now, I just want to enjoy my moment for winning a medal for the country. There is lot of time as far as team selection for the Olympics is concerned and I don’t want to say anything on this.
Q You work in the Maharashtra Police as DSP – how much of your wrestling success you owe it to your employers.
Maharashtra Police has always supported me and I think they have played a big part in my wrestling success so far.