Wrestler Sushil Kumar's historic World Championship gold finally brought some cheer to Indian wrestling at a time when six wrestlers tested positive for banned drugs ahead of the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games and brought taint upon the sport.
Sushil defeated Russian Gogaev to win the 66-kg freestyle title in Moscow Sunday to become the first Indian to win a world wrestling championship gold medal.
The 3-1 win in the title-bout also made the 27-year-old the first Indian grappler to bag Olympic and World Championship medals. Sushil, who won the bronze medal at the Beijing Olympics, also holds Asian and Commonwealth titles.
Sushil's gold comes after Ramesh Kumar broke India's medal drought in the World Championship by winning the bronze in the 74-kg category last year. Uday Chand (bronze in 1961), Bishambhar Singh (silver in 1967) and female wrestler Alka Tomar (bronze in 2006) are the other World Championship medallists from India.
Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) president G.S. Mander hailed Sushil's feat and said that the Delhi boy had proved his mettle at every level.
'This gold means a lot for Indian wrestling and it is a big feat for Sushil to be the World, Asian and Commonwealth champion at the same time,' Mander said.
Mander said the gold medal comes as a much-needed boost for the sport that has been tainted with drug abuse of wrestlers.
'This is a big relief for us. In the last few years the federation has worked hard to clean the sport, but suddenly the drug test of six wrestlers got us lot of negative publicity. Suhsil's gold medal is a welcome change for us,' he said.
WFI secretary and former Asian Games gold medallist Kartar Singh was also elated with Sushil performance.
'I am excited with his achievement. The country was expecting a gold from him and he didn't disappoint. I have spoken to him and he told me that it was all due to god's grace. The competition was very tough, especially the semi-final against the European champion was a difficult bout. I told him to give his best even against the fancied Russian wrestler (in the final) as such chances come very rarely in life,' Kartar said.
Kartar hoped that winning the Commonwealth Games gold will not be a difficult task for Sushil now.
Coach Satpal Singh, a 1982 Asian Games gold medallist, also showered praise on Sushil.
'He had prepared extremely well and it is not easy to win five straight bouts in day. But Sushil did it. Without any doubt he is the best wrestler India has ever produced. He is humble and sincere and that makes him what he is. I have always maintained that Sushil is destined for bigger things in life and now everybody will realise that his bronze at Olympics wasn't a fluke,' Singh said.