Wrestling as a sport has its roots in ancient India, so it was hardly a surprise when Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav became the first Olympian from independent India to win an individual Olympic medal at the Helsinki Games in 1952.

That said, India had to wait a long time for their next Olympic medal in wrestling. Sushil Kumar ended India’s medal drought in wrestling at the 2008 Beijing Games and that seemed to set the tone as numerous wrestlers followed in his footsteps in the next few editions of the Olympics.

Yogeshwar Dutt, who spoke to SportsAdda in an exclusive interview before the Indian wrestling contingent’s campaign at Tokyo 2020, is one such person.

Yogeshwar won a bronze for India at the London Games in 2012 and is someone who knows all about the pressure that comes under the bright lights of the Olympics.

“I have been a part of four Olympics and it becomes extremely difficult to handle the pressure. It is totally different than that in other tournaments. This is why you see young athletes rising as well as champions bowing out. The one who handles the pressure better reaches the medal,” he said.

“The pressure was always there [when I competed] but the support of 130 billion Indians kept me going. All eyes are on the Olympics since it is the biggest sporting event. I used to meditate as well. The effort always was to keep the same mindset as we do in other tournaments like the Asian Games. However, pressure finds its way somehow. It's always about staying positive and giving your best,” the London 2012 bronze medal winner added.

Although India sent a strong contingent of seven top wrestlers from the country to Tokyo, only Ravi Kumar Dahiya has managed to win a medal so far after settling for silver on Thursday. 

Bajrang Punia still stands a chance of winning a bronze on Saturday but Yogeshwar’s hope of India securing medals in wrestling for four successive Olympics has come true. 

Keeping Sakshi Malik’s bronze at  Rio 2016 in mind, Yogeshwar had said: “We have won medals in wrestling thrice consecutively, from 2008 to 2016. I am hopeful of us doing well at Tokyo 2020 too.”

Needless to say, Yogeshwar must have been overjoyed after Ravi Kumar Dahiya’s silver on Thursday but then again that’s something he had already predicted.

“Ravi Kumar is not a surprise package at all. He has proved himself at the World Championship and has won a medal at the Asian Games. This way he has proved himself to be a medal contender. Ravi will gain advantage in his category due to his height. 

“This will help in his defence and leg attack techniques and he has even defeated Japanese wrestlers because of this. It won't be a surprise if he brings home a medal,” Yogeshwar had said.

Looking ahead to Saturday, the 38-year-old from Haryana will undoubtedly be pinning his hopes on Bajrang securing a podium finish.

If Bajrang manages to do so, he and Ravi will follow in Yogeshwar and Sushil Kumar’s footsteps from London 2012 when two Indian wrestlers returned home with medals from England.

Featured photo : Yogeshwar Dutt / Instagram