A three-time Olympian, Sushil Kumar is an Indian wrestler who has won two medals at the quadrennial event. He is the first sportsperson from India to win two medals in individual events at the Olympics for independent India. Previously, only Indian Hockey players were able to achieve the feat of winning more than one medal at the Olympics. His first Olympic medal in 2008, a bronze, was India’s second in wrestling, and was the first since Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won bronze at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki.
Kumar was awarded the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, India’s highest honour for sportspersons, in July 2019. In the Queen’s Baton Relay for the 2010 Commonwealth Games Opening ceremony, he handed the Queen’s Baton to Prince Charles. He was awarded the Arjuna Award in 2006 and the Padma Shree in 2011.
Sushil Kumar's arrest
Kumar’s career took an unexpected turn after Delhi Police arrested him in May 2021 in connection with the murder of former junior national wrestling champion Sagar Dhankhar during a fight in the Chhatrasal Stadium.
Sushil Kumar's early life
He was born in a village near Najafgarh in South West Delhi. His father Diwan Singh was a driver in MTNL Delhi. Kumar's mother, Kamla Devi, is a housewife. He was inspired by his father and cousin to take up wrestling. He completed his graduation and post-graduation from Noida College of Physical Education, Dadri. Sushil Kumar was employed with the Indian Railways but got suspended after his arrest in the murder case.
Sushil Kumar's wrestling career
Sushil Kumar’s career began at the age of 14 with training in pehelwani at the Chhatrasal Stadium’s akhada. He was trained by Yashwir and Ramphal. He was later trained by Arjuna awardee Satpal and then by Gyan Singh and Rajkumar Baisla Gurjar at the Indian Railways camp.
Kumar later switched to freestyle wrestling and his first success came at the World Cadet Games in 1998 where he won the Gold medal. He followed it up with another gold medal at the Junior Asian Wrestling Championship in 2000. In 2003, Kumar moved on to senior competitions and won the bronze medal at the Asian Wrestling Championship and a gold at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship. In the 2003 World Championship, Kumar came 4th but it was shadowed by his poor performance in the 2004 Athens Olympics, his first Olympic appearance. He bounced back to win gold at the 2005 and 2007 editions of the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship. He then finished 7th at the World Championship in 2007. In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Kumar went on to finish third and win bronze for India. In 2010, Kumar became the first Indian to win a world title in wrestling. He bettered his previous Olympics performance in the 2012 London Olympics with a silver medal. His last major international gold medal came at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia. He couldn’t participate in the 2016 Olympics after a court battle for selection trial went against him.