Sushil Kumar, who achieved stardom in Beijing Games (bronze) four years ago, was immortalized in Indian wrestling in London Games (silver) as he became the first in the country to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals Sunday.
Sushil's silver in the 66kg category also made the 2012 London Games, India's best ever performance in the Olympics. India finished the Games with a record six medals, a steep jump from three in Beijing, where Sushil had won the bronze.
Sushil's silver was the second medal from wrestling at London. His childhood friend Yogeshwar Dutt had won the bronze in the men's 60kg category here Saturday night.
For mild mannered Sushil, who hails from the Baprola village in Delhi, the journey from the Beijing Games to London was all about hard work, grit and sheer determination.
His bronze in Beijing inspired a new generation of Indian wrestlers and in London Sushil led by example, doing better and winning the silver.
Despite achieving success four years ago, Sushil, a bus conductor's son, always remained grounded. Though accolades and financial rewards started pouring in, Sushil never lost his focus.
After the bronze in the Beijing Games, Sushil found his golden touch in 2010. He became the World Champion in Moscow and then bagged the gold medal in the Commonwealth Games at home.
After the success at the Commonwealth Games, Sushil decided to settle down on the personal front. He got married to his longtime girlfriend Savi, who is the daughter of his coach Satpal Singh, a former Asian Games gold medallist.
But on the wrestling front, Sushil endured some tough time. A shoulder injury ruled him out of the Asian Games in Guangzhou and last year he hit a rough patch. He was out of competition for nearly a year and when he returned in September 2011, he suffered a second-round loss in the World Championship and failed to defend his title.
At the turn of 2012, Sushil was forced to change his fighting style with not much time left for the Olympics. Sushil trained at the US Olympic Centre in Colorado Springs in January to make some changes.
He tested his new style at the Dave Schultz Memorial International Wrestling Tournament in Colorado Springs, where he won the gold medal. But he struggled in the first Olympic qualifier at Astana.
"Every wrestler has to change his style and technique regularly. It helps to keep the opponent guessing. Change was badly needed. My opponents are watching my videos everyday and they can easily analyse my fighting technique. It is important to change style regularly. It was a tactical decision and I hope it will work at the Olympics," Sushil had said.
The wrestler finally bagged his ticket to London after winning the gold in the 66kg event at the World Qualifying Tournament, which was the last qualifying meet for the London Games.
The rest, as they say, is history.