Lukewarm 2011 for wrestling as Sushil and Co. disappoint
New Delhi: Olympic bronze-medallist and former world champion Sushil Kumar was the biggest letdown in a largely disappointing year for Indian wrestling, the rare highlight of which was the Commonwealth crown won by little-known grapplers.
Sushil Kumar, who remained conspicuous by his absence on the mat for most part of the year, failed to defend his title at the World Championships in September, crashing out in the second round of the 66kg freestyle category.
The Haryana grappler was not alone as most of the other wrestlers also failed to get past the first-round hurdle in the mega-event, Mausam Khatri being the lone exception for at least making the pre-quarterfinals of the 96kg freestyle.
On the women`s front, the results were no different.
However, it was a day to remember for 23-year-old Tibetan girl Shelok Dolma, who scripted history by winning a gold medal for China in the Championship to qualify for next year`s London Olympics.
Dolma won gold for China in the 67kg category of women`s freestyle becoming the first Tibetan ever to achieve the feat.
The failure to grab even a single Olympic berth meant that Indians were denied an opportunity to participate in the Wrestling Test event in London.
The grapplers, though, had a memorable outing at the Commonwealth Championships in Melbourne as they clinched the title in all the three categories of the event -- freestyle, greco-roman and female. Such was their dominance that they won as many 40 medals, including 15 golds at the three-day meet.
Amit Kumar, who competed in the 66kg free-style category, made full use of the opportunity in the absence of Sushil, to add a gold to his silver medal at the Asian Championship.
Among the women, Navjot Kaur (67kg) won the bronze medal at the Asian Championships and clinched a gold at the Melbourne event to make it a memorable year for her.
The success story of Indian girls was, however, not limited to the Commonwealth Championship only as they clinched five medals, including three gold, in the Asian Cadet Championship in Bangkok.
The juniors went on to claim the maiden title at the Asian Junior Championship at Jakarta, Indonesia, in the free-style category.
The Indian boys won seven medals, including three gold, two silver and two bronze.
Amid the rigours of national and international events came a change at the helm. While Dushayant Sharma from Jammu and Kashmir defeated former secretary general Kartar Singh to be the new President of the Federation, Raj Singh was elected as the new Secretary General.
Prem Nath was elevated to the chair of treasurer with Hamza-Bin-Omer becoming the senior vice-president.
The game also saw some welcome support from the Sports Ministry, which earmarked a budget of Rs 15.72 crore for wrestling ahead of the upcoming Olympics.
On the domestic front, the traditional powerhouse of Wrestling, Haryana, dominated the 34th National Games held at Jharkhand, winning 14 golds.
However, some of the glitter was lost as wrestlers could not escape the doping net unscathed, with Rinku testing positive for prednisone and boldenone.
The sport also tried to take a leaf out of cricket with the announcement of Indian Wrestling League.
However, the championship, which was earlier scheduled to be held in the last quarter of this year, was postponed to November next year keeping in mind a busy preparatory schedule of the wrestlers ahead of the forthcoming London Olympics.
On the personal front, it was a year to remember for Ravinder Singh, who was conferred upon the Arjuna Award.
Even for Sushil, amid the disappointment this year, the Padma Shri came as a bright moment.
The loss of former Commonwealth Games wrestling champion Harishchandra Birajdar, who died at the age of 61, was though a dampener for an overall eventful year in the Indian wrestling.