He represented India in the Olympics thrice, but became wrestling’s new poster boy only last year when he clinched bronze. Nevertheless, fate had other plans and injuries kept 30-year-old Yogeshwar Dutt out of the ring for nearly a year now.
The freestyle wrestler is now eyeing a comeback at the 62nd All India Wrestling Cluster Championship, which kicked off at the mega sports complex in Ranchi on Monday, and hopes that his performance will boost his chances for three big international events next year.
“Being away from the game for almost 9-10 months is indeed a huge loss, especially in power sports like wrestling where along with physical strength, mental toughness is equally important,” Dutt, who will be representing Haryana Police at the championship on Tuesday, told The Telegraph.
“I am a little nervous because I was out of action for so long on account of my injuries and did not have any international exposure all this while. Let’s see what is in store for me,” said the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medalist.
Is he completely recovered now?
“Yes. I had multiple injuries like a torn ligament in my right knee, back problems etc. But I have taken care of that now and started training three months ago,” he said, looking forward to Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Cup next year.
Post-injuries, Dutt is focussing on regaining strength. “I am doing a lot of knee and back training. I spend around 5-6 hours at the gym thrice a week and give similar attention to mat training besides meditation, yoga etc,” he said.
In Ranchi for the first time, Dutt was all praise for the infrastructure built during the 34th National Games at the mega sports complex, but expressed displeasure with the wrestling scene in Jharkhand.
“While the state wrestling association is doing its bit to sustain the game, I think government patronage is equally important. This is one sport that doesn’t need too much space. All we require are good coaches and support from the government,” said the grappler from Haryana.
“At least, the Haryana government is good when it comes to promoting sports as it offers jobs and security. For example, it has already announced Rs 5 crore, Rs 3 crore and Rs 2 crore for winners in the next Olympics. Isn’t that encouraging?” asked Dutt, who represented India in the Athens, Beijing and London Olympics.
The third one, where he defeated Puerto Rico’s Franklin Gomez Matos to clinch bronze, was obviously special.
“Oh yes, but I was close to winning in Beijing. However, I was happy that Sushil Kumar (also from Haryana) helped the country win at least one medal,” said the Arjuna awardee.
Reacting to the International Olympic Committee diktat to India to remove corrupt officials from the national committee by February next year or face life ban, Dutt maintained that such riders shouldn’t have come at the first place.
“Corruption and politics in sport only affect talent. There are many deserving players across all disciplines who may not have got a chance to prove themselves because of the many ills afflicting the system. I think the issue is settled now as Indian Olympics Association has agreed to remove tainted officials, which is a welcome decision,” he signed off.