Gold Coast : A gold rush is anticipated when India’s star-studded wrestling line-up begins its campaign at the Commonwealth Games, the opening act featuring no less than defending champion and double-Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar (74kg) here today.
The wrestlers will be in action at the same venue, where the weightlifters signed off a phenomenal campaign on April 9.
Five gold, two silver and two bronze medals is what they departed with today and the grapplers would be hoping that they don’t just match that but perhaps better the show. “Everybody expects us to win gold medals in a heap and I can assure you that, this is exactly what is going to happen,” India coach Kuldeep Singh told PTI after a training session here.
“On Thursday, our top pehelwan Sushil will compete. He is in supreme fitness and you will see how he dismantles competition,” Singh said.
Sushil’s build-up to the Games has been far from ideal as he found himself dragged into a selection controversy, when his supporters and those of his rival Parveen Rana came to blows during the trials. It would be interesting how Sushil responds to the pre-event pressure.
Joining Sushil in India’s opening day campaigners among men is Rahul Aware. The 57kg category freestyle wrestler is a former gold-medallist at the Commonwealth Championships.
His coach’s confidence is not completely off the mark given India’s dominance at the Commonwealth level. The only challenge is expected to come from Canada and Nigeria, the latter in the women’s draw. India had claimed 13 medals, five gold, six silver and two bronze at the 2014 Games, just one shy of top-finishers Canada.
“It will be the same this time but obviously, we are expecting our performance would be better than Glasgow, perhaps the best ever in the Games,” Singh stated.
“Nigerians have some strong names in the women’s draw. Canada will pose challenge. But none is strong enough to stop us from sweeping the competition,” said Singh.
Also in action will be one of the two Phogat sisters in the squad, Babita, the defending gold-medallist in the 53kg category. Her cousin Vinesh will be seen on the last day of the competitions in the 48kg category. She is also the defending champion in her weight category.
Olympic bronze-medallist Sakshi Malik (62kg) will be part of the final day star show. In all, 103 wrestlers from 23 Commonwealth countries will be vying for top honours for the next three days.