Life in Satpal’s akhada: Early mornings and lots of ghee

Yashvir Singh is well acquainted with the fleeting essence of time. The wrestling coach is shuffling between interviews at the Chhatrasal Stadium, painting a picture of Sushil Kumar for those of us who didn't bother examining his life before the wrestler delivered an Olympic medal. And the veteran is adamant about one thing: It'll never last. "After ten days, there will be nobody here. You all will forget, and nobody will remember us. I'm not lying," he says, calmly, not a hint of antagonism in his tone.

Satpal Singh's akhada is where the champion was made, and as the tidbits of information keep pouring out, the more one gets drawn into the tale. Founded by the man they call their guru, 1982 Asian Games gold medallist Satpal, the akhada is just as firm about the rules as it was back in its debut year in 1988. "Discipline," echo Yashvir and fellow coach Virender Singh, when asked about the most vital ingredient their chief has kept constant. "Satpal is extremely particular about the way these boys live. No one goes out of this place, and if they do, it's only after asking us. If anyone breaks this rule, he is told to leave," Yashvir says. "You never know what might influence them outside. We have a routine here, and they have to follow it."

The man who started it all, though, is unwilling to grab all the praise. "This is a great moment for the country, not just for me or Sushil," says Satpal, speaking to The Indian Express from Beijing. "Whether anybody else expected it or not, we were sure because we were fully prepared. We put in so much of practice, and I could see the other participants were tiring out faster. In the new format, wrestlers have to defeat up to four opponents in an hour. The others just couldn't handle it, they didn't have the stamina."

... contd.

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