Flipping arena with a toss, Dutt gives India its fifth medal


Make no mistake — Yogeshwar Dutt possessed the strength and stamina to bring India one of its most exhilarating bronze medals of the London Olympics. What the Sonepat pehelwan did was to combine the brain with the brawn, digging out his most potent weapon at just the right time to deny North Korean Jong Myong Ri a podium and to emerge as one of the most popular wrestling medallists at the ExCel Arena.

There were not more than half a dozen Indian supporters in the stands, but the full house — the Brits, Iranians, Turks, Americans and even the unobliging North Koreans — gave the Indian a standing ovation as he won the 60 kg freestyle wrestling bout. It was a reception that's reserved for last-ball sixes back home, or for penalty shootouts here in London.

What evoked that reaction was Yogeshwar's stunning last move — thrusting his head between his rival's thighs, wrapping his arms around his legs and then flipping him like an omelette several times — something called the "phitle" for short. The points piled up, one, then one more, then a third, and finally a 6 flashed on the score-screen as the Indian punched the air in triumph.

Phitle is a "daav (hold/ move)" that Dutt had employed on a lesser stage when returning from his career-threatening knee injury at the Commonwealth Games, to win gold. He also used it in his opening bout here against Bulgarian Anatolie Ilarinovitch. It requires the most flexible of iron grips, and the good upper body strength that Dutt exudes.

However, it was the timing of using it for the bronze that showed class. Growing up in village akhadas, the phitle isn't the easiest to master, as the mud makes the grip slippery. This was clearly something Dutt had trained for hours in practice, and pulled out at just the decisive moment to finish off the tiring Korean.

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