Only a day after losing his repechage contest at the London Olympics last year, Amit Kumar Dahiya, the youngest member of the Indian wrestling squad, was all smiles. He was shadowing Yogeshwar Dutt, who had won a bronze, to every nook and corner.
Despite his loss, there was a winning smile on Kumar’s face. “I wanted Yogeshwar bhai to win here. I’m young and have a lot of time to win medals. Yogeshwar bhai truly deserved this Olympic medal after all that he has gone through in the last few years,” he had said referring to Yogeshwar’s knee surgeries.
Kumar had no regret over his own loss. Being the ‘baby’ of the camp, he was always asked to help his seniors on tour. Born in 1993, in Nahri village, Sonepat, Haryana, Kumar took to wrestling at the age of seven.
He soon won the gold medal in the Cadet Asian Wrestling Championships in April 2013.
Kumar was being spoken off as a successor to Sushil Kumar and Dutt after the London Games. Late on Monday, the 19-year-old almost scripted history at the World Wrestling Championships in Budapest as he fought for gold against a much experienced opponent in Hassan Farman Rahimi of Iran.
By winning the silver medal, Kumar emulated Bishamber Singh who had brought home a medal of the same colour at the World Freestyle Wrestling Championships in New Delhi. Sushil is the lone Indian to have won a gold medal at the world championships (Moscow 2010).
Born into a farmers’ family, his humble rural background did not deter him as he worked assiduously on improving his skills after he was admitted to Mahabali Satpal’s Akhara in the Capital about 11 years ago.
It was at the school level first that he proved his mettle, clinching gold at the World Cadet, Asia Cadet and Asian Junior levels. Apart from the Senior National Wrestling tournament, he also bagged gold in the US before qualifying for the Olympics.
Kumar’s strength is his defence and that’s what makes him formidable in the 55 kg category. A lot of credit should also be given to his coach and former Asian Games gold medallist, Mahabali Satpal, who has been steadily pushing his boy towards a specific goal.
Satpal described his ward as a “rare talent”. “Amit is India’s best bet to win an Olympic gold in Rio de Janeiro,” said the man who’s been coaching Kumar for the last eight years.
“Amit has reached here because of his sheer discipline. He is a rare and a real talent. Wait for a year, and I am telling you, Amit is a real candidate to get us gold at the 2016 Olympics,” he added.
Kumar is the blue-eyed boy at the Chhatrasal Stadium Akhara, not because he is a good wrestler but because he is a hard-working lad. And he never says no to any of his seniors who ask him for help.
After his silver medal triumph in London, Sushil called Kumar the “next star of Indian wrestling”.
And the boy proved the two-time Olympic medallist right during his narrow loss to Rahimi on Monday. It was Kumar who took the first point but a few refereeing “errors” took the bout out of his hands.
After the final bout, Kumar said, “It was a tough final against Rahimi and we both fought tooth and nail. The referee gave me a warning for engaging in defensive and shadow wrestling. In reality, it was the other way round as the Iranian was getting back on my moves. He was more defensive and the point should have come my way.”
Coach Virender Kumar, who has accompanied the 24-member Indian contingent to the World Championships, echoed Kumar’s sentiments and said the boy was “very impressive” throughout the bout.
“He had defeated Rahimi during the London Games. But he is young and will surely learn quickly. It was a bad decision by the referee but nevertheless, I am happy for Amit who did the whole nation proud,” Virender said.
Kumar can strut his stuff at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, the 2014 Asian Games and then at the 2016 Olympics. What’s important, though, is to learn “the art of keeping a stable head over his shoulders” from his seniors like Sushil and Yogeshwar. That’s what the coach wants from Kumar.