Yogeshwar Dutt’s bronze medal in the 60 kg freestyle wrestling not only lifted the Indian contingent from the blues, but also brought home the fact at what might have been if several other athletes had performed to potential.
Beaten in his first bout against world champion Russian Besik Kudokhov (who lost to Toghrul Asgorov of Azerbaijan in the final however) Yogeshwar showed exemplary courage, grit and cleverness to win two bouts in the repechage and then play-off for the bronze— all within the space of an hour.
In fact his last two bouts— against Iranian Esmail Poorjoyu and North Korean Ri Jong Myong (for the medal) came in the span of 20 minutes in which Yogeshwar had just about enough time to get his breath back and change his clothes.
“I was dejected after losing the first bout, but when the chance came again, I was determined to come good,” he said after his bout. “Winning an Olympic medal is a promise I had made to my parents.”
Having missed the bronze by a whisker in Beijing four years ago, Yogeshwar looked intent on making amends once he had the opportunity of the repechage. Richer by the experience of Beijing, he showed strength, stamina and adaptability in winning the two crucial bouts.
The passage to the medal was daunting. He was in trouble in both bouts, but every time it appeared that he was running out of steam, Yogeshwar dug deep into his reserves to gnaw back.
He was at his best against the slippery Myong. Having lost the first round, he had to turn the tide of the contest with a bolder approach, and showing early aggression from the start of the second, won a psychologically important second round.
With the medal within grasp, Yogeshwar was in his elements in the third, getting Myong into a leg lock that spelt finis to the North Korean’s hopes. His victory, which came when India’s hopes of another medal were fast dissipating, should be a shot in the arm for Sushil Kumar who wrestles Sunday early morning.