New Delhi: Struggling star Sushil Kumar sealed a berth in India’s squad for the World Championship, pipping a spirited Jitender Kumar 4-2 in a bitterly-fought 74kg final of the selection trials here on Tuesday.
Consistent attacks from both the wrestlers in the fast-paced final bout had the fans on the edge of their seats.
Close to 1500 gathered at the IGI stadium to watch their favourite star in action.
Sushil opened up a 4-0 lead in the first period and ended up inflicting an eye injury on Jitender early in the second period.
Sushil, whose return to the mat after a year at an event in Belarus met with a disappointing end, apologised immediately.
Later, another attacking move from Sushil had Jitender wincing in pain as he suffered an elbow injury.
Nevertheless, Jitender did not give up and thrice he had got hold of Sushil’s right leg but lack of proper grip meant he could not convert them into points.
The two-time Olympic medallist was feeling the heat and to the discerning, it seemed the two medical breaks he took was a ploy to catch some breath.
With two push-out points, Jitender reduced the margin of defeat.
It still is not over for Jitender as the federation has given him the option to book a World Championship berth in 79kg by challenging Tuesday’s winner Virdev Gulia.
His coach Jaiveer accused Sushil of indulging in unfair practices.
Sushil, India’s only individual double Olympic medallist, though outrightly rejected the charge.
“It was not done deliberately. He is like my younger brother. It was a good fight and if such bouts are fought consistently, the country will see good results,” said Sushil.
The Wrestling Federation of India president Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh also backed Sushil.
“It was not rough. When Vinesh Phogat suffered a broken knee, was her opponent rough. It happens in wrestling. No wrestlers comes with hands tied on the wrestling mat,” said Singh.