No rivalry, only utmost respect for Sushil: Jitender Kumar

February 20 2020

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There are no Olympic quotas on offer at the Asian Wrestling Championships that started in New Delhi on Tuesday but the continental championship isn't devoid of context with regards to Tokyo 2020 for many athletes. One of them is Jitender Kumar.

Jitender's qualification to the Asian Championships marked a shift of guard of sorts. If he medals at the competition he is likely to stay in contention for the Asian Olympic qualifier and thus end any chances of two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar's chances of booking his place in the Indian contingent that will go to Tokyo.

"He is a legend of our sport and our country. I respect him, he is my senior," he told IANS.

Being the best in their weight category means that Sushil and Jitender often have to get past each other before going to a major tournament. In one of the more notable clashes, Sushil had beaten Jitender in the trials before the World Championships in a bout in which allegations of foul play was levelled on the senior grappler.

Jitender however got the better of Sushil in the trials for the Asian Wrestling Championships, which at the time served as the trial for the Asian Olympic qualifier as well before Wrestling Federation of India President Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh said that there would be another trials before the qualifiers in case the performances of the selected wrestlers were not satisfactory in the national capital.

Jitender maintains that he does not see Sushil as a rival. "Winning or losing is normal in sports and I don't take any of it personally. It is shown like there is some rivalry between us, but nothing like that exists. He can compete anywhere he wants, I don't see him as a rival and have the utmost respect for him," he said.

The WFI's late change of heart that led to a possibility of another trial may have made winning a medal at the Asian Championships all the more important but Jitender feels that regardless of that, this competition is necessary for him to understand where he stands.

"The ambition to go the Olympics is always there. Competitions like these help us understand how much prepared we are. You get to know how much we need to improve best when we go for competitions," he said.

Jitender said that the focus of his training ahead of the tournament has been to improve his reflexes. "All of us Indian wrestlers regardless of our weight category have a problem with our speed and reflexes. Our training is such that we don't tire but our speed is less. So that is something I have worked on and apart from that I am also working on my leg defence," he said.

"I am trying the best from my end. The rest we will see how the competition goes. 74kg is one of the more competitive categories. Whoever qualifiers for a tournament is always good. I don't know who will be more difficult and who won't, it all depends upon what happens on the mat. I have been training in Azerbaijan before this and I feel that there has been some improvement in my game."

The Asian Wrestling Championships started on Tuesday and will go on till Sunday. Jitender will be in action on the final day of the competition.

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  • Source
  • IANS