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Sushil Kumar’s first-round loss: Can individual goals be held in higher esteem than country’s?

Sushil’s first-round loss at the World Championships raises a pertinent question: Can individual goals be held in higher esteem than the country’s?

Sep 20, 2019, 11.43 PM IST
Sushil Kumar
By Garima Verma

Call it our tendency to hold on to the past but it does seem odd when a person becomes bigger than the sport. They might have been the ones to define the trade at a certain point in time, but does that make their genius immortal? Especially when it has clearly struck a downward slope.

Sushil Kumar is beyond doubt the most celebrated name in the history of the Indian wrestling. The man has to his credit two Olympic medals, world champion title and several other medals. On Friday, when he started his bid to reserve a berth for the next year’s Olympic Games, in the ongoing wrestling World Championships in Kazakhstan, he lost in the first round. Had a Sushil of yore ever squandered an 8-2 lead to end up losing 9-11? One wonders.

The lure of getting a shot at the ultimate glory — an Olympic medal or another, is understandable. What sparks deliberation is whether individual goals could be held in higher esteem than the country’s? Sushil’s result does little in such a situation than take us back to the World Championships selection trials held in the Capital in August. The 36-year-old was up against national champion Jitender in the 74kg final bout. An accidental eye poke and a twisted arm later, Sushil had secured his comeback to the world event after a gap of eight years. Jitender’s coach could not do more than fume at the “rough tactics”.

The Wrestling Federation of India decided to give Jitender another chance, albeit by allowing him to take on the winner of the 79kg category, Virdev Gulia, whom he beat.

“Whenever I am fit, I try to fight. I love wrestling a lot. And like every player, even I also always wish to prepare and do well in big events,” Sushil had said of his long breaks and not being a regular at the tournaments a few days back.

“How and where the controversies start from even I do not understand. But I do not pay any heed to what people say. A player has a very short life span and he can do well only when he does not pay any attention to such things.”

Earlier in August, a 23-year-old Nikhat Zareen was feeling robbed of her chance to even stake claim for a women’s World Boxing Championships berth. She was looking forward to challenge six-time world champion and the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist, MC Mary Kom, in the 51kg category trials.

There was to be none. For, the Boxing Federation of India had already decided that the 36-year-old senior had already done enough to reserve a spot for the championships, scheduled to be held in Russia from October 3. Zareen was reportedly told that it was to protect her at such a young age and that she would have her chances in the future!

“Have Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu ever given trials? They did not hold any for the World Championships. Why in our case there are always trials?” Mary Kom had tried to put it in perspective a couple of weeks later. It must be a relief to many in badminton then that the world rankings determine the qualification for the big events.

These are but just the most recent examples of system finding itself in debt of the big achievers. Let’s not even delve into the cricket world, largely India’s, where letting a youngster replace a veteran is no lesser a task than belling the cat. The Gods and the champions are not to be troubled it seems. Here, only they get to decide when to vacate the spot. A certain Michael Phelps might be a startled self for having gone through the rigorous process of proving himself over and over again.

Though there is no doubt that sometimes the likes of Mary Kom and Sushil Kumar are the country’s best bet, when not many have shown potential similar to theirs and results, but who should answer the big ‘what if’ question when they falter. An example would be: Sushil could try again to secure the Tokyo berth through the continental and ranking qualifications next year. What if what follows thereafter in Tokyo doesn’t go beyond a guest appearance? What if Mary Kom fails to qualify like she could not for the 2016 edition?

Well, keeping your relevance alive in the sphere of life is a tough task and striving for it by any means an obvious human nature. The dilemma that many of our federations and the system overall perhaps need to address, however, is that to what extent they can let the legacy take precedence over future.
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this column are that of the writer. The facts and opinions expressed here do not reflect the views of

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