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After claiming gold in Nationals, Sunil shifts focus to Olympic qualification

Asian Games bronze medallist Greco Roman wrestler Sunil Kumar has been consistently winning medals at the continental level and is eager to make his mark in the Paris Olympics.

Sunil, who has won a gold and silver apiece and two bronze medals in the Asian championships in the last few years and earned a podium finish in the Hangzhou Asian Games to end the country’s 13-year-old medal drought, asserted his supremacy once again at the domestic level by claiming the 87kg title in the National Wrestling Championships at the Railway Stadium here.

Now, Sunil wants to shift gears for the upcoming Asian qualifying event for the Olympics in April. “My target is to qualify (for the Olympics) in the Asian qualifying event. To prepare for that, I will travel with a training partner to Azerbaijan to train there for 25 days. The Sports Authority of India (SAI) is supporting me in this,” Sunil told  Sportstar.

“In our country, it is hard to find good sparring partners. In Greco Roman wrestling, ground wrestling is important. It is easier to find good sparring partners in Azerbaijan. They conduct camps in which wrestlers from various countries participate. I keep in touch with the coaches over there and one such interaction helped me find this opportunity,” said Sunil, who will leave for his overseas camp on Thursday.

ALSO READ | National Wrestling Championships: Sunil thumps Manoj to claim the 87kg Greco Roman crown

Following a memorable 2023, in which he won an Asian Games medal and bagged the prestigious Arjuna award, the 25-year-old Sunil is motivated to raise his performance. “I was delighted that I could win an Asian Games medal for the country after 13 years. This will inspire other wrestlers to work hard and bring laurels. I will also try to win more medals for the country in upcoming major events.”

Nurturing a winner’s attitude has also boosted Sunil. “Before a bout, I tell myself that when the bout ends my hand should go up. The scores can be up and down during a fight, but I focus on winning the bout. I begin slowly and don’t get aggressive from the very start. My stamina is my strength.”

Sharing his success mantra, which has enabled him to be consistent, Sunil said, “An athlete has to set his own targets and do a lot of sacrifices and work with dedication in order to achieve something significant. I keep on doing that. The countrymen’s love and goodwill also inspire me.”

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