sushil kumar

Wrestler Sushil Kumar during a press conference regarding Pro Wrestling League in New Delhi, on July 27. (IANS photo)

NEW DELHI — At the age of 36, Sushil Kumar is well into the twilight years of his decorated career. And yet, in September, when he travels to Kazakhstan for his sixth wrestling World Championships, the two-time Olympic medalist will be representing India in the 74kg category for the first time in his career.

Sushil has been wrestling in the 74kg category since 2014 and has won two Commonwealth Golds since then, but his most famous victories, including the gold he won at the 2010 World Championships and the two Olympic medals, have come in 66kg.

The Alexander Medved tournament in Minsk in Belarus was Sushil's first since the 2018 Asian Games, which means that the World Championships will be his first major tournament in over a year.

"It is never easy for a wrestler to get back onto the mat after a long break," Sushil told reporters after his World's trials in New Delhi Aug. 20.

"When I was training in Russia, people asked me why it is that I am returning. I said I just love wrestling and that is why I am doing this.”

"I had a good tournament in Belarus. I won two and and lost two but the man I lost against has beaten some of the best in the world. So that was a very good experience and I got a lot of appreciation for it," he added.

Sushil's final bout against Jitender turned out to be an intense affair. In the second period, Jitender went down clutching his left eye after being struck by Sushil's thumb.

Sushil apologized immediately and after Jitender recovered, the bout was resumed. Towards the end of the match, Jitender was wincing in pain once again with an elbow injury. Sushil himself received multiple cuts and the bout had to be stopped periodically for the wrestlers to receive medical attention.

"Jitender is like a younger brother and I wish him all the best for his future tournaments. It was a very good bout and it will be great for our country if the competition remains this stiff. No one intentionally hurts an opponent in wrestling," he said.

Sushil said that he hopes to leave the country within the next two weeks to start training for the World Championship. 

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