Even until the end of the 20th century, India’s exploits in individual events at the Olympics were very limited. Despite Norman Pritchard’s shining start, India shortly started fading away to oblivion and would have infamously nosedived into despair if not for their extraordinary hockey team.
However, there was an isolated incident in the mid-1900s that made India proud for the first time, and it came through a wrestler. Wrestling has always been India’s strong forte and despite failing to clinch a medal on most of the occasions, they have fought at their very best.
Winning a medal in the Olympics is not at all easy, and the ones who successfully land this achievement have to go through hell. Wrestling is a sport that actually tests the athletes to the extremes and compels them to push their physique until the very line in order to triumph over their counterparts.
Ignoring pain and torment, these grapplers simply keep moving on and on in pursuit of that hallowed medal that needs aeons of practice to be dangled around one’s neck.
In this story, we will be taking a look at four Indian athletes who bagged a medal in wrestling in the quadrennial extravaganza.
1. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav – 1952
He was more popular amongst the crowd as K.D Jadhav. He penned history by becoming the first India to win a medal post-independence in an individual sport. He won a bronze medal in the 1952 Helsinki games in the 57 kg category.
2. Sushil Kumar – 2008 and 2012
He is the only Indian to date to win two Olympic medals in an individual sport. After K.D Jadhav bagged the first medal in wrestling in 1952, India went for a dry patch for 56 years in grappling.
It was Sushil Kumar who managed to finally end the drought, despite not being at his physical best and being confronted with several odds. He won his first medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, where he went onto win the bronze medal in the 66-kg Men’s freestyle.
He was also handed over the titanic onus of being India’s flag-bearer in 2012 at the London Olympics, and he capped it off with a top-notch showdown to claim the first silver medal in grappling and also becoming the only Indian to win a second Olympic medal in an individual sport.
3. Yogeshwar Dutt – 2012
Despite Sushil Kumar bagging the silver and the limelight at the London Olympics, Yogeshwar Dutt clinched the bronze, braving a career-threatening knee injury.
He powered his way past a star-studded lineup of opponents that included the likes of Anatolie Ilarion Guidea, Franklin Gomez, Masoud Esmaeilpour and Ri Jyong-Myong to clinch the bronze.
The reason this victory was even more scintillating was that he achieved the feat with limited vision in his eyes. He copped an injury in the eye against Besik Kudukhov, who advanced to the finals, thereby paving the path for Yogeshwar’s repêchage rounds.
4. Sakshi Malik – 2016
Wrestling for women saw the light of the day in the Olympics in 2004 Athens. However, given the patriarchal dominance in the nation, women didn’t have it easy, and they had to walk through hell to reach the Olympics in the first place.
After Vinesh Phogat crashed out of the 2016 Olympics with a nasty knee injury, all eyes were on this 23-year-old youngster. She packed a powerful punch in the 58-kg category and clinched the bronze medal, becoming the first Indian woman to bag a medal in wrestling.