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'Will change my bronze in London to gold at Rio'

June 30, 2016 07:39 IST

'It is important to keep new tricks in your bag to win at the biggest event of world sports.'

IMAGE: Yogeshwar Dutt celebrates after winning the final against Tajikistan's Zalimkhan Yusupov. Photograph: PTI

The feud between Sushil Kumar and Narsingh Yadav has overshadowed the preparations and success of other wrestlers in the country. London Olympics bronze medalist Yogeshwar Dutt is considered India's best medal hope at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

After Sushil's exclusion with Narsingh getting the nod, Yogeshwar will be the senior-most grappler in India's 8-member wrestling contingent in Rio.

The Sonepat-based wrestler is set to participate in his fourth straight Olympics with the bronze medal in London being the highlight.

The 33-year-old wrestler had openly supported Narsingh over his long-time training partner Sushil.

The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist also criticised Bollywood star Salman Khan's appointment as India's goodwill ambassador for the Rio Games.

Yogeshwar Dutt took time off his gruelling training schedule to chat with Aruneel Sadadekar/Rediff.com

IMAGE: Yogeshwar plays football as part of his cardio session.

Tell us about your training for Rio.

I have been training for 6, 7 hours in a day. It primarily includes mat training, where I work on the technical aspects. Then there is weight training to increase my power followed by cardio sessions.

The weight training and cardio sessions change on a weekly basis. Recently we had gone for a 15-day training camp in Bulgaria, where we trained with their junior athletes. Now we will head to Spain for a week's camp and after that will be training in the USA.

We will be going to Rio from the US.

Bulgaria is one of the top countries in wrestling. Why didn't you train with their senior wrestlers?

Their senior wrestlers had gone to Poland for competitions. Plus, we wanted to avoid direct contact with our main competitors just ahead of the Olympics.

It is important to keep new tricks in your bag in order to win at the biggest event of world sports.

I can tell you that the camp in Bulgaria was a success. The weather is perfect for training and their junior wrestlers are world class.

IMAGE: Yogeshwar during his intense weight training session.

After the rejig in weight categories, you had to move from 60kg (2012 Olympics) to the 65kg weight category...

Yes, but thankfully it has been a smooth ride for me. Since I changed to 65kg, I have won gold medals in every event that I participated in.

First I won a gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and followed it up with another gold at the Incheon Asian Games later that year.

While changing my category, it was important to gain muscle mass and increase my weight. This I achieved by intense weight training, which in turn boosted my strength and power.

I know a lot of wrestlers suffering because of the rejig in categories, but for me, it has worked in my favour.

But your knees have seen at least five operations in the last two years.

So what, in a contact sport like wrestling, it is bound to happen.

I have learnt to live with pain and surgeries. I have been wrestling for more than 20 years now and it is bound to affect my body.

I love this sport. Pain and the inability to participate are all mental barriers. If you really want it, you will get it at any cost.

Who will be your biggest competitor in Rio?

Well, no one! This is going to be my last Olympics and I will ensure that I change my bronze from London to a gold at Rio.

Mere liye na koi tagda hai aur na koi kamjor (nobody is strong or weak for me).

I am just focussed on the ultimate goal of winning a gold for India. Competition doesn't matter to me.

I have been working on the technical aspects of the sport. I am mainly concentrating on improving my ground wrestling and defence.

IMAGE: Yogeshwar with a gold medal. Photograph: PTI Photos

Did the Sushil-Narsingh saga have any impact on you and other wrestlers?

It drew attention of many towards wrestling. I was sidelined for some time, but now it is my chance to show what I am capable of. The controversy is over and I don't want to speak about it.

We have a strong contingent and we can expect 4, 5 medals from wrestling itself, which will be double from what we got at the 2012 Olympics.

You were vocal about Salman Khan's appointment as India's goodwill ambassador. His movie Sultan, which is based on wrestling, will release next week. Will you watch it?

Bhai, yahan ghar nahi jaata main! Sirf gold hi gold dikhayi deta hai. (Brother, I don't go home. I see and dream about only the gold medal).

I have no time to do anything else. For the next one-and-a-half months, my entire focus is only on one thing.

Aruneel Sadadekar / Rediff.com
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