London: Wrestler Sushil Kumar’s silver Sunday made him the first individual athlete from India to win back-to-back medals at the Olympics and ensured the country’s sixth medal at the London Games, its best ever performance in the sporting extravaganza.
Sushil ran out of steam against Japanese Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu in the men’s 66kg freestyle final, losing 1-3 in what was his fourth fight of the day.
India’s other representation on the concluding day of the Games, army-man Ram Singh Yadav finished 78th in the men’s marathon with a time of 2:30.06 hours.
Sushil’s silver here meant an improvement from his Beijing show four years ago when his bronze medal increased wrestling’s popularity in India by leaps and bounds and overnight made him a star.
His silver was India’s fourth wrestling medal in the Olympics and second in London after his childhood friend Yogeshwar Dutt won a bronze in the 60kg freestyle event Saturday. Khashaba Dadasaheb Jadhav won the country’s first medal in the sport at the 1952 Helsinki edition.
The other Indians who shone in the London Games were shooters Vijay Kumar (silver) and Gagan Narang (bronze), boxer M.C. Mary Kom (bronze) and badminton star Saina Nehwal (bronze), doubling India’s medals tally from the Beijing edition where it had won three medals.
Sushil was tipped to win the gold after knocking out defending champion Ramazan Sahin of Turkey in the opening round.
He then got the better of Uzbek Ikhtiyor Navruzov and Kazakh Akzhurek Tanatarov to muscle his way into the title clash.
But when the moment arrived, he looked jaded and his fresher opponent took advantage of that. Going into the fight, Sushil had played nine periods while Yonemitsu seven.
Yonemitsu, a silver medallist at the World Championships last year, won the first period 1-0 and displayed his dominance in the second by lifting Sushil and putting him down on the mat. The move earned him three points and he won the period 4-1 and thereby the gold.