London: Wrestler Sushil Kumar created history by becoming the first Indian to win back-to-back Olympic medals, but the coveted gold medal eluded him as he lost the men’s freestyle 66 kg final to his Japanese opponent on Sunday.
The 29-year-old Sushil found the Japanese Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu a tough opponent as he carved out a 3-1 victory to shatter the his hopes of winning a gold medal.
With the addition of Sushil’s silver medal, India completed their engagements in the 30th edition of the Olympics with a record haul of six medals – two silver and four bronze – but the gold medal could not be won by anyone.
In Beijing, India won one gold and two bronze medals.
Sushil, who was cheered by the flag-waving Indian spectators, was down with dehydration when he took the mat for the final and that had a bearing on his performance.
“Í had a stomach problem just after the semifinal, because of the dehydration. I lost weight and was feeling a little weak. But we have got a silver medal and we will try for gold medal in the next Olympics,” Sushil said after the medal ceremony.
“I had said about 15 days ago that we will do well. It was a question of what will be the colour of medals. I am happy that Yogeshwar won a bronze and our performance will keep improving,” he said.
In the final, Sushil found the going tough against the Japanese, who did not allow the Indian to grip him at all.
Sushil tried desperately to get a breakthroug but without much luck as the Japanese wrestled intelligently. Yonemitsu won the first round 1-0 and took the second round 3-1 during which he picked up Sushil on his shoulder and brought him down, effectively ending the Indian’s chance.
“It was bronze in Beijing, and now it’s a silver. So we are gradually going up and maybe in the next Olympics, I will be able to win the gold medal,” Sushil said.
Sushil said he dedicated the silver medal to his coach Satpal, parents, friends and the entire support staff.
“When you see us fight, you see us alone. But there are a lot of people who work behind the scenes to keep us fit. They also work equally hard. Besides, it is the blessings of my countrymen which has brought me to this level,” he said.
On how he planned to celebrate the victory, he said,”First I will take some rest. I have been training hard for the last five or six months. So a little rest is needed.”
Team Manager Raj Singh said Sushil was down with dehydration after his semifinal and had also hurt his shoulder.
“He was in a bad shape. He vomitted thrice and went to the toilet six times before his bout. He was very weak and was not in a position to give his rival a fight,” he said.
Earlier, Sushil demolished Akhzurek Tanatrov of Kazakistan 9-6 in an engrossing semi-final contest to achieve the memorable feat and provide the late spark to India’s Olympic campaign.
Sushil, a bronze medallist in the Beijing Games and who was the flag bearer of the Indian contingent here, kept his reputation intact with a stunning display of skill, stamina and power as he wriggled out of some difficult positions to fashion three victories in a row backed by vociferous Indian spectators.
India end in 55th spot
While Sushil gave his country its second silver medal of the Games, India still slipped three positions in the medals table from the day before and ended the competition in 55th place.
Despite pulling in a total of six medals, the lack of a gold cost Indi several potential places.
To put the six-medal haul into perspective, Mongolia – with a population of just 2.7 million, which is less than Meghalaya – came in 56th place with two silver and three bronze.
India, in fact, was the best of all the non-gold-winning countries.
In total, 54 different nations won at least one gold medal during the Olympics. Another 31 won at least a silver or bronze.
The USA was the most successful country of these Games, with more than 100 medals in total, nearly half of them gold.
It may be a surprise to some that they beat China, who had bagged the top spot in 2008, but the Chinese put up yet another strong fight to come second.
Britain could also celebrate, thanks to its record medals haul, in an Olympics that has been a tremendous success for the island nation. (Agencies)