City anchor: 2020 big blow, Delhi wrestlers pin hopes on Rio

Mahabali Satpal's akhara, based out of the Chhatrasal Stadium, has provided three of the four Olympic medals that India won in wrestling. Apart from that heavy claim, the bowl has also delivered countless pehelwans of recognition since its establishment.

Amit Kumar was the latest entry to that prestigious list of individuals who had represented India at the Olympics after learning his trade under Satpal's eyes.

Kumar was in the middle of a training session at Chhatrasal Stadium when he heard the news of wrestling's Olympic fate. Unaware of the full details, the 19-year-old pieced it together through various news reports following the Rio Olympics in 2016, wrestling will not be a part of the games.

First, came the bout of shock and sadness. Then, the realisation: He has only one shot at reaching where Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt are. Only one shot at an Olympic medal.

"Rio is my only target now. I don't know what will happen now or in the future, but if it's true, then it means I have only got one more shot at the medal," Kumar told Newsline on Tuesday.

In Bawana, Sushil's long-time coach, Yashvir, had the unenviable task of breaking this news to close to 70 fresh cadets at a government-run training centre. "They were stunned. They refused to believe me. But when the truth and the effect of this move dawned upon them, they were all sad," Yashvir said. "Saare ke saare hataash ho gaye (They all seemed defeated)."

Yashvir is worried for the future of wrestling in India. "Why will children want to take up wrestling now? Parents will rather have their kids train for other games like boxing, which are part of Olympics," he said. "This will directly impact our talent pool. It will be harder to command new talent."

In all, there are nine to 10 venues including Chhatrasal, Bawana and Singhu where approximately 8,000 new recruits train for their Olympic dream. Of these, 85 have already won either at the cadet level or in junior championships around the world.

With all the hard work coming to nothing (most of these trainees will mature only by the time of the 2020 Olympics) and his factory worth no more than dreams, guru Satpal is not a happy man.

"We were emerging as a powerful force in the world of wrestling. This is a black day for us, and for the sport," Satpal said. "Our wrestlers have been winning medals at all levels. If this decision stays, the kids will not come near an akhara again."

Most coaches claim that a wrestler, the good ones at least, begin peaking between the ages of 25 and 30. Sushil was 26 in Beijing and Yogeshwar 29 at London. In 2020, Kumar will be 26 and with the experience of two Olympics under his belt. He would have been ripe for glory.

Apparently hurt, Kumar worries for the generation after him.

"Humne to ek Olympics khel liya. Shayad agla bhi khelein. (I have already participated in one. And might in another). What will happen to the children who have taken up the sport recently with dreams of Sushil and Yogeshwar?"

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