'I get up as early as 3.30 am for training'
World Championships gold medal-winning wrestler Sushil Kumar tells Harish Kotian that India's matmen will win at least 14 medals at the upcoming Commonwealth Games.
Sushil Kumar shocked many when he won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. But few were surprised when he won the gold at the World Championships in Moscow earlier this month.
Now, his sights are firmly set on winning the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in front of his adoring home fans.
Life changed for Sushil after his Olympics medal. The accolades started pouring in, but, significantly, he kept delivering with consistent performances. He won four consecutive gold medals at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championships, and in May struck gold at the Asian Championships.
Last July, he was conferred the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sports honour. Union railway minister Mamta Banerjee promised him out-of-turn promotion to any position he wants from his current rank as Assistant Commercial Manager (ACM).
Success, certainly, did not come easy; it required hours and hours of hard work.
"I get up as early as 3.30 am for training, which starts at 4, and the whole day we keep training with small breaks in between. I am away from home for six months and keep travelling most of the time. So winning a gold medal is not easy, it required a lot of hard work and dedication," Sushil told Rediff.com in Mumbai, where he was named as the brand ambassador for (NECC) National Egg Co-ordination Committee.
Image: Sushil Kumar
India will stage a successful Commonwealth Games: Sushil
The 27-year-old is confident that India will stage a successful Commonwealth Games and urged countrymen to support the organisers.
"I am sure all the top wrestlers will definitely come for the Commonwealth Games, because this is the next big event after the Olympics. I met a few wrestlers during the World Championships at Moscow and they were all eager to come to India and do well at the Commonwealth Games," he said.
"A sportsperson never bothers about other things, like problems about delay in the readying the venues or anything, because his mind is fully focussed on his training. I myself know that the wrestlers from other countries are concentrating on preparing for the Delhi Games because they have been training for the last few months for this event. So there is no chance that they will pull out from the Games," Sushil asserted.
Image: Sushil Kumar
Sushil took up wrestling at the age of 14
Since taking up wrestling at the age of 14, its been an arduous journey . He was inspired to take up the sport by his cousin Sandeep and father Diwan Singh, who was working as a bus driver in Baprola village in Delhi.
He revealed that his family supported him a great deal by sending him home-made food during of the Beijing Olympics so he could get his full quota of dietary supplements.
"I remember that I took a lot of homemade food because I am a vegetarian and getting Indian vegetarian food outside India is difficult. I took a lot of readymade vegetarian stuff and lot of ladoos to have when I would drink milk, which was available there," he said.
Image: Sushil Kumar
'Indian team is hoping to win around 13 or 14 medals'
Sushil pointed out that Indian wrestlers are hoping to win a rich haul of around 14 medals at the Delhi Games.
"We want to be fully prepared by the time the Commonwealth Games start and we are leaving no stone unturned in preparing for the same. There are 21 medals at stake in wrestling at the Commonwealth Games and the Indian team is hoping to win around 13 or 14; that is how high our expectations are. We are confident that our wrestlers will deliver and we will end up with a huge haul of medals at the Games."
Image: Sushil Kumar (in red) fights Leonid Spiridonov of Kazakhstan during their 66kg men's freestyle wrestling bronze medal match at the 2008 Beijing Olympics
'No need to worry about security at CWG'
The ace wrestler further sought to assure his foreign counterparts about security for the mega-event, saying it will be foolproof.
"I want to assure all the foreign athletes that the security for the Commonwealth Games will be tight. I want to give you an example that during the Asian Wresting Championships in Delhi [in May] I was not even allowed to get my juice inside the stadium by the security guys. So that is how tight the security will be and there is no need to worry about anything," he added.
Sushil believes that despite all the setbacks in the lead-up to the Games, India would deliver a world class event.
"The Commonwealth Games is a matter of prestige for the nation, so I request everyone including the media, to support the event and make sure that it is a big success. I know there have been a few setbacks like the footbridge collapsing, but India is such a country where things can happen overnight."
Image: Sushil Kumar (right) with Vijender Singh