Sports

In a heartless self-discipline, Ravi Dahiya chases perfection

The acquainted unruly mop of hair sits fairly on his head, the sculpted triceps glisten from a distance, and the legs — heavy and leaden — energy on like well-oiled pistons on the stationary bike. Ravi Dahiya is hurtling in the direction of an imaginary goal, his pursed lips and clean gaze intact. It reads Paris 2024.

“That’s the ultimate goal,” he mumbles, extra as a reminder to himself than an inane response. “But it is equally important to stay in the present. After Tokyo, a lot of people have asked me about my goals for Paris, but sport is a heartless discipline. In wrestling, your career can end in a snap. That’s why it is important to not think too far ahead,” says Dahiya, who gained a silver in his maiden Olympics final year after happening to Russian Olympic Committee’s (ROC) Zavur Uguev 7-4 within the 57kg closing.

Despite the glory, the enduring picture of that August night stays that of a crestfallen Dahiya forcing a smile for the cameras. Nine months on, acceptance has lastly arrived.

“I was really sad. I have immense respect for that silver, but in wrestling, you never know when are you going to play an Olympic final again. Each year, a new crop of talented wrestlers comes through, your game is studied threadbare, techniques evolve, weights change. A lot can happen in an Olympic cycle. So, when you have that elusive chance to create history, you better do it. I knew I had fluffed my chance, and that hurt me a lot,” he says.

“But, I have moved on now. It took me a while. The disappointment of missing an Olympic gold cannot and should not go away easily.”

For a euphoric nation although, it was extra a case of profitable silver than dropping gold. Awards and accolades adopted, and nearer dwelling, a life-size poster got here up on the entrance of Chhatrasal Stadium. In truth, the often uptight coaches organised a ‘DJ evening’ on Dahiya’s return the place the boys grooved to Haryanvi and Punjabi pop until the wee hours because the Olympic medal was handed round for all to really feel.

The image of a victorious Dahiya standing beside a fallen Nurislam Sanayev of Kazakhstan, within the Olympic semi-final that he gained by fall after being 2-9 down, now hangs within the Chhatrasal coaching corridor, subsequent to the enormous body of Sushil Kumar receiving his Khel Ratna. It is a poignant passing-the-baton illustration on the famed wrestling nursery, a truthful diploma of serendipity however. Coaches who as soon as confirmed younger trainees clips of Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt now groom the subsequent batch with Dahiya’s movies.

The 24-year-old, who got here to Chhatrasal 15 years again from Sonipat’s Nahri village, understands the fickleness of fame, or so he claims. “When I took up wrestling and came here, I didn’t know of Sushil Kumar or Yogeshwar Dutt. I just loved to wrestle, and gradually these iconic figures became an inspiration. Now, I am told I inspire people. It feels good, but a few years later, someone will replace me too. So, I don’t read a lot into these things.”

“I don’t think the moment to look back at my journey or think of my legacy has arrived yet. There is still a long way to go and I don’t want to sit on my laurels. I am happy, but not satisfied. For an athlete, the quest for contentment is endless and perennial. From outside, it may appear that my life has changed drastically, but frankly, nothing much has changed.”

That means he nonetheless wakes up at 4:30 am, hits the mat at 5, and proceeds to punish his physique in an unforgiving four-hour mat session, 5 days a week. The success on the Olympics was adopted by a gold on the Asian Championships in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, final month, making him the one Indian wrestler to win three consecutive continental championships.

True to kind, Dahiya lists the achievement as one other “happy but unsatisfied” landmark. “I am not perfect, and till the time perfection eludes me, I won’t rest,” he says.

“Of course, Olympics gold remains the larger goal, but that doesn’t mean you ignore everything else in between. Currently, I am focussed on bringing home a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games,” he provides. That should not be a drawback, given India’s pedigree at CWG. With 102 medals within the sport, India are the second most profitable wrestling nation behind Canada (135) on the CWG. In the final version, India’s 12 wrestling medals had been probably the most by any nation.

In truth, India have gained gold in Dahiya’s weight class (57 kg) within the earlier two events of the Games by way of Amit Dahiya in Glasgow in 2014 and Rahul Aware in Gold Coast 4 years later. Dahiya is conscious of the historical past however is way from being slowed down by it.

“We have a very good record at CWG, and I am confident of keeping up the tradition,” he says.

Currently nursing a twisted left ankle — he gained the CWG trials grappling by way of the discomfort — Dahiya will probably be in motion in Rome Ranking Series subsequent month the place he’ll compete within the 61 kg class. In truth, he plans to oscillate between 57 kg and 61 kg classes until Paris Games earlier than pondering of transferring to the upper weight class (65 kg).

“It is quite tough to maintain the weight (57kg), so I will compete in the 61 kg category wherever possible. But since the next Olympics are just two years away, I am not thinking of changing weight class anytime before that,” he says.

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