From Injuries to Slumps in His Career, Here’s How Olympian Yogeshwar Dutt’s Made His Way to the Top

#ChasingTheGold: A series on the lesser known stories of India’s sporting stars, presented by The Better India in collaboration with Knappily, the Knowledge App

A look at Haryana-born wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt’s incredible journey as he steps on the Olympic mat for the third time.

Yogeshwar Dutt has journeyed from being a shy village boy to an Olympic bronze medallist. In the current team of wrestlers, he is the only one who has prior Olympic experience. He will compete on the last day of the Rio Olympics in the 65 kg category. Given that he has been a part of the Olympics thrice, his opponents have probably dissected his game threadbare. But Dutt’s immense talent has raised the hopes of the nation and the wish for one more medal in the Olympics this year.

What has his journey to Rio been like?


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  • Dutt is the third Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal after K D Jadhav in 1952 and Sushil Kumar in 2008 and 2012. He won a bronze medal at London 2012, in the 65-kg category.
  • He took to wrestling when he was 8. It took him a while to convince his family and friends that he belonged to the world of kushti.
  • The successful pehelwan has since moved from the sand-pit akharas of Harayana to international arenas, collecting medal after medal for his countrymen.
  • He rose from a 55 kg rookie wrestler in Athens to a 60 kg bronze-medal winner in London. He went on to become the 65 Kg gold medal winner at the 2014 Asiad and Commonwealth Games.

Why is Dutt a favourite to win a medal?


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  • At the 2004 Athens Olympics, a 21-year old Dutt took part in the Men’s freestyle 55 kg and stood 18th. He finished 9th in the 60 kg class in Beijing after losing 3-6 to Kenichi Yumoto of Japan.
  • Over the next few years, his growth as an athlete was met with a corresponding growth in expectations. He was under immense pressure to win a medal for India in the London Olympics of 2012.
  • When he lost to Russia’s Besik Kudukhov in the second round, the expectations of a billion Indians were shattered. But the repechage system gave him a reprieve.
  • His right eye was injured in the first round of the repechage, and although he could barely see, the injury did not stop him from winning all the three rounds of repechage.
  • His winning performance came in the third repechage round when he faced North Korea’s Ri Jong Myong, who was a favourite.
  • His hard work and determination saw him stand on the Olympic podium, proudly claiming a bronze for himself and his country.
  • As he is about to show up for his final Olympics, he is more determined than ever to win another medal for the country. He spent most of 2015 battling injuries and has even undergone a knee surgery.
  • As he bows out after this Olympics, he says that it is “Gold or nothing.”

When did he reach his other milestones?


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  • Before Athens, he won Gold in the 2003 Commonwealth Games, Bronze in the 60 kg category at the 15th Asian Games at Doha in 2006, Gold in the 2010 Commonwealth Games, Gold in the 2014 Commonwealth Games and Gold in the 2014 Asian Games to confirm his berth for all his Olympic participations.
  • Although each of his medals is a milestone in itself, there are few milestones that standout due to his exceptional performance.
  • He lost his father just 9 days before he boarded the flight to Doha for the 2010 Asian Games. He also sustained a knee injury, but he overcame all the emotional and physical trauma to win the bronze in the 60 kg category at the 15th Asian Games at Doha.
  • Two years later, at the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, he overcame a career-threatening knee injury to win the 60 kg title. He stayed out of the game for a long time and then bounced back. He came back with an stunning performance to win the gold for India.

Where does Dutt derive his strength from?


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According to his close aides, the following are some of the traits that keep Dutt going:

  • Love for the country: Dutt’s love for the country is well known. Patriotism is his biggest motivator. He also derives his inspiration from the biographies of patriotic leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose, Chandrashekhar Azad, Bhagat Singh and Jhansi ki Rani.
  • Spirituality: Wrestling has shaped Dutt’s spiritual side as well.He carries forward the legacy of the akhara tradition by carrying a Bajrang Bali idol everywhere he goes. He offers prayers to Hanuman before stepping on to the mat.
  • Determination: Wrestling was and is his life. His determination in pursuing his passion is unwavering and awe-inspiring. Viren Rasquinha, former India hockey captain, once tweeted a video where Yogeshwar was seen with heavy weights dangling from his neck.  “I’ve never ever seen anyone doing neck weight exercises,” he said.
  • Perseverance: Right from his first Olympic appearance in Athens, he learnt from his mistakes and continuously improved and upgraded his techniques. It is this perseverance that won him a medal in London.
  • Role Model: The sight of Leander Paes winning a bronze medal at Atlanta in 1996, motivated Dutt to win an Olympic medal for the country. In wrestling, his inspiration was Balraj Pehlwan, who was from his native village.

Who are the top contenders for gold in his category?


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  • The road to a medal in the 65 kg category will be tough. A lot will depend on the draw that a player gets on the day of the event.
  • Dutt is expected to face stiff competition from 6 other wrestlers, who have equal chances of winning gold – world champion Frank Chamizo of Italy, Russia’s Soslan Ramonov and wrestlers from Iran, Poland, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

How is wrestling as a sport faring in India?

  • In India, not enough recognition is given to athletes until they win any big event.
  • To an extent, wrestling has become a region-specific sport that is gaining popularity in the north.
  • Wrestling is still not looked upon as a favourable career option for an athlete as it is a contact sport. One must be willing to get hurt and suffer severe injuries, as it is a part and parcel of the sport.
  • This is also why the government should take necessary steps to promote athletics, not just popular sports and games, and ensure that proper facilities are provided to those who are already in the sport. This will help athletes pursue their passion without facing any difficulties. It could yield better results as the athlete can just focus on their game.

Wishing him the very best of luck!

Knappily, short for Knowledge Application Daily, is India’s highest-rated digital magazine that analyses news and features in its unique 5W1H framework, helping readers gain a 360-degree view on them. The app is free, and can be downloaded from Play Store or App Store.

Featured image source: Twitter

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