New Delhi: Struggling star Sushil Kumar sealed his berth in the India squad for the World Championship pipping a spirited Jitender Kumar 4-2 in a bitterly-fought 74 kg final here on Tuesday.
The consistent attacks from both the wrestlers in the fast-paced final bout had the fans on the edge of their seats as close to 1500 gathered at IGI stadium to watch their favourite star in action.
Sushil opened up a 4-0 lead in the first period and ended up causing an eye-injury to Jitender early in the second period.
Sushil, whose return to mat after a year at an event Belarus met with a disappointing end, apologised immediately.
Later, another attacking move from Sushil had Jitender wincing in pain as he suffered an elbow injury.
Nevertheless, Jitender did not give up and thrice he had got hold of Sushil’s right leg but lack of proper grip meant that he could not convert it into points.
Sushil was feeling the heat and it was obvious that the two medical breaks he took was a ploy to catch some breath.
With two push-out points, Jitender reduced the margin of defeat.
It still is not over for Jitender as the Federation has given him the option to book a World Championship berth in 79kg by challenging today’s winner Virdev Gulia.
“Everyone saw how he (Sushil) fought. I was just doing wrestling and he was … I had trouble seeing after that eye injury. I had prepared well. He was also taking unnecessary breaks,” alleged Jitender, his left eye still red-shot and elbow wrapped tightly.
“In a day or two I should be fit. I will try to make it to squad in 79kg,” he added.
His coach Jaiveer accused Sushil of indulging in unfair practices.
“He did it on purpose. He has been doing it for years. He employed same tactics in the 2012 Olympics. It was definitely deliberate. The referees were also hand in glove. They don’t want any other win against Sushil,” alleged Jaiveer.
Sushil, India’s only individual double Olympic medallist, though outrightly rejected the charge.
“It was not done deliberately. He is like my younger brother. It was a good fight and if such bouts are fought consistently, the country will see good results,” said Sushil.
“My style is not rough. My style is to win by technical superiority or pin the opponent. Today the instruction from the coaches was to just win the bout. It’s an art to win wrestling bouts. I wish Jitender all the best. He respects me and even touches my feet whenever we meet,” he said.
The Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also backed Sushil.
“It was not rough. When Vinesh Phogat suffered a broken knee, was her opponent rough. It happens in wrestling. No wrestlers comes with hands tied on wrestling mat,” said Singh.
When asked if it was fair on Gulia to be asked to fight again despite winning the trials today, WFI Assistant Secretary Vinod Tomar said,”This is not to favour any one particular wrestler. We want to send a strong team. Jitender is an excellent wrestler and should be given a chance to go to World Championships.”
Rahul Aware (61kg), Karan (70kg), Praveen (92kg) abd Viderv Gulia (79kg) won trials in non-olympic divisions.