Russians offered me crores to throw bout, says wrestler Sushil Kumar
Cricket, it appears, is not the only sport to be hounded by the scourge of match-fixing. Double Olympic wrestling medallist and former world champion Sushil Kumar has revealed how he was approached to throw the championship bout at the 2010 world meet in Moscow.
As he prepared for his final against Russian Alan Gogaev, Sushil told TOI on Thursday that he was made an offer of a substantial amount to lose the bout. "A member of my entourage came up to me and said, 'Sushil, kushti ki liye keh rahe hai (They want to talk about the bout)'."
"When he explained the whole thing, I was aghast," remembers Sushil. "The money offered was around a good few crores. For a wrestler, it was really good money. The offer was communicated to one of our foreign coaches. The event was taking place in Russia and my final opponent was a Russian. It's our country so our player should win - that's what they seemed to want."
"I said, 'It's very strange. Here, we are on the threshold of getting the winning belt home to India, and I'm supposed to tank the final?'" Sushil swiftly put the thought behind him, focussed on the final and proceeded to demolish Gogaev 3-1 for India's only world championship wrestling gold medal. "It was not a matter of two or four crores. Humari bhi izzat ki baat thhi," said the champion during a visit to Times House on the one-year anniversary of his return home after his silver medal at the London Olympics.
Sushil said how he was humbled by the reception he received from the crowd after the final win in Moscow. "As I climbed down from the mat, I looked up and remembered noticing that there was no one sitting. Everyone in the stadium was giving me a standing ovation. It was most humbling," said Sushil during a free-wheeling chat.
Among his supporters cheering him on was Jabrail Hasanov, his semifinal opponent from Azerbaijan whom Sushil had beaten 4-3. "I have participated in four or five world championships, but the support I received in Moscow in 2010 was commendable. To beat a home wrestler in a country with a strong wrestling base is not an easy task," Sushil recalled.
Back to full training after a shoulder injury, Sushil Kumar is enjoying that familiar spring in his step that comes with being in the thick of things. His immediate target is the world championships at Budapest from September 16-22. He juggles his time between the SAI Centre in Sonipat for his morning training stints, only to show up at the Chhatrasal Stadium in the capital for the evening session.
When not perfecting his technique on the mat, Sushil said he likes to follow the exploits of Barcelona forward Lionel Messi. "His passing game is exemplary. It's always a joy to watch."
But while he cheekily said that he watched cricket only when Virender Sehwag was batting, Sushil confessed to being an unabashed Sachin Tendulkar fan. "You learn so much simply by just sitting next to him. Once during a promotional event, we were having dinner and he leaned over and told me, 'If you want to win another medal then stay as you are and don't follow these people by doing the things they do.' I looked up to see which people and he was pointing to some of his fellow cricketers. I won't name which ones. You make your conclusion," he said with a wink.