A Delhi Police ‘lookout notice’ for decorated wrestler Sushil Kumar, India’s lone double individual Olympic medallist, in connection with a wrestler’s murder last week could make parents rethink on encouraging their kids to take up the sport, says former world junior bronze medal winner Virender Kumar.
Sushil, employed with Indian Railways, is in focus as he is posted as an Officer on Special Duty (OSD) at Chhattrasal Stadium, where the brawl allegedly took place. Former international Greco Roman wrestler Sagar Dhankar, 23, died on May 4 after a group of wrestlers allegedly beat him up, either inside the stadium or around it.
According to Delhi Police, Sushil is absconding. “A lookout notice has been issued for Sushil Kumar,” Dr Guriqbal Singh Sidhu, Additional Deputy Commissioner of Police (North West Delhi), had told IANS on Monday.
Virender, who won 58kg freestyle bronze at the 1992 World Junior Championship, is worried about the implication of the case on wrestling, particularly on youngsters who want to take the sport up as a career.
“Parents would be scared to send their young kids for practice. Elderly people in the family would definitely think twice before sending youngsters to wrestling halls for training as no one would like their children to be part of bad company and bring a bad name to the family,” Virender told IANS.
“When Sushil won his first Olympic medal, a bronze in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, it changed the mind-set of Indian wrestlers; they thought they too could win medals at the world level. But if a star like Sushil’s name has cropped up in a major controversy and Delhi Police have issued a lookout notice against him, it would send a wrong message to budding wrestlers. If young athletes are not disciplined they will never become good players or good citizens,” the 50-year-old coach said.
Virender has a long-standing relationship with Sushil, the Olympic medallist’s father-in-law Satpal, and Chhattrasal Stadium, the wrestling hub in north-west Delhi. Virender is also the husband of Satpal’s sister. He, as a wrestler, learnt his first lessons at Chhattrasal Stadium and was later posted at the same venue as a coach. But, he seems to have fallen out with Sushil, the OSD at the stadium, and was transferred to another school in east Delhi in August last year. “It is good for me that I’m out of Chhatrasal Stadium,” he said.
According to Virender, wrestling facilities at Chhatrasal Stadium were set up in 1988. “The foundation stone of wrestling at Chhatrasal Stadium was laid by 1982 Asian Games gold medallist Satpal Singh. There were five or six wrestlers in the first group. I was one of them,” he pointed out.
Virender, a former national medallist, has been working with the Delhi government as a coach for some time. He is hurt as Chhatrasal Stadium, which has been home to him and several international wrestlers, has been mired in this unsavoury incident involving one of India’s most successful wrestlers.
Virender said there are currently more than 200 registered wrestlers in the 10-15-year age group train at Chhatrasal Stadium. “Some senior wrestlers like Ravi Dahiya and Sumit Malik, who have qualified for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, also train at the stadium,” he said.
With an aim to strengthen the ecosystem of sports within the Delhi Education Department, Sushil in 2015 joined Delhi government on deputation from Indian Railways as an OSD. His office was at the Chhatrasal Stadium. “But his [Sushil] administrative decisions weren’t acceptable to several wrestlers and they quit the stadium to train elsewhere,” alleged Virender.
After clinching bronze at the 2008 Olympics, Sushil, now 37, bagged silver at the 2012 London Olympics. He also won gold at the 2010 Moscow World Championship and three gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, in 2010, 2014, and 2018.