Two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar says he is optimistic of wrestling continuing to be a part of the 2020 Summer Games by getting a favourable verdict in September.
Sushil, the only Indian sportsperson to win back-to-back individual Olympic medals with a bronze in 2008 at Beijing and a silver in London last year, said it would be a huge loss to India's medal hopes if the sport doesn't make the cut for the 2020 Olympics.
"If wrestling is not included in the 2020 Olympics, the loss will not be to US, Russia, China or Japan because they already have medals. The maximum impact will be on India and it will be a huge loss if wrestling is not there because our wrestlers have started to perform now," Kumar told PTI.
The ancient sport is grappling with two other disciplines - squash and baseball/softball - for survival with the 125th IOC session in Beunos Aires voting to include one of the three for the 2020 Olympics programme.
Sushil, who today signed up with non-profit sports foundation Olympic Gold Quest, said youngsters have started taking up to the mat game in large numbers recently.
"We have created history this time by becoming champions in Asia in senior and junior level. The cadet national for under-16 is also going on and there is a possibility that we can become champions over there as well. The mindset of youngsters is changing. So the biggest loss would be to us if not to some other country.
"We had expectations even earlier that wrestling will be included in 2020 Olympic Games. The previous FILA President (Raphael Martinetti) did not give a good presentation there and that is why he tendered his resignation. In our country and in the world there was an uproar that wrestling was excluded from the Olympic Games.
"Everybody supported it and created the pressure on the IOC that wrestling should remain as an Olympic sport. Wrestling got eight of 15 votes. I believe in September also, it will be decided that wrestling will be a part of 2020 Olympics," he maintained.
"It felt weird because it is an ancient game and has been there since the start of the Olympics. In September, the game will be included again," Kumar said.
The grappler has signed up with OGQ, founded by badminton ace Prakash Padukone and billiards great Geet Sethi, for the Rio de Janerio Olympics in 2016. He will also help the sports foundation to identify and groom the young talent.
"They have appointed me as an advisor for wrestling. I believe the base the youngsters get through OGQ is a good thing. It is almost like China. Earlier China didn't have medals but now they are giving stiff competition to US. That is the kind of role OGQ is playing and it will be fun to work with them," he said.
The ace grappler is focusing on the Budapest World Championships, scheduled from September 16-22, and not thinking about next year's Commonwealth and Asian Games: "Now the World Championship is there so I am focusing on that and training accordingly. I had the shoulder injury (before 2010 Asian Games). It happened before the Olympics and after it as well. Now, I have associated with OGQ, they have good doctors and physios," he said.
"It would be wrong to say before I participate that I want to be the world champion. In world championship, everybody is equal. I will try to give my 100 per cent," he added.
The 30-year-old said he wants to give his best shot at the 2016 Olympics: "Now there are three World Championships but the Olympics is on the back of my mind and I know I have to do well at Rio. I just follow the coaches. I hope to do the best at Rio," he said.
Sushil further added that the planned IPL-style wrestling league will be a boost for the sport: "They should try to organise more international tournaments. The federation is going to start a tournament like the IPL. It will benefit us because we will get exposure at home and the standard would be of international level. The Federation is still planning it, but it will be conducted very soon. The national championship is in October, so it could happen before that, I think. I will participate in the tournament," he said.
From among the new crop of wrestlers, Sushil said he has been impressed by Parveen Rana, Pradeep Kumar, Jaideep and Sumit.
On the new FILA rules, he said it will take a few months to get used to those: "Rules keep changing, like it did after Athens Olympics. It will take at least 4-5 months to get adjusted to the new rules. Because it is a speed game, man-to-man game and mistakes are bound to happen, so it will take time to adjust. It is to create an interest in wrestling that they keep changing the rules," he said.