One of the best in the business but modest to the core, Yogesghwar, like many of his ilk, prefers to remain virtually unsung and lost in wilderness.
A day-out with with the unassuming grappler at his village in Bhainswal Kalan in Sonepat district, and one got a fair idea of what it takes to be a winner at the Olympics.
Treading the water-clogged roads of Sonepat to the narrow bylanes of a fairly unknown village, it seems as if you have reached a different sphere. But once in Bhainswal Kalan, you know you are chasing a star. All due to the 29-year-old’s bronze-winning feat at the ExCel Arena in London.
From children to senior citizens, everyone is ready to guide you to the wrestler’s home — a double story house with a room on the ground floor dedicated to Yogeshwar’s achievements.
Amid the festivities that continue unabashed since Yogeshwar’s return from the British capital, one cannot escape the gaze at the five continental rings looming large at the front wall of his house.
“There should be some memories from the London Games,” said a proud Yogeshawar, who was recommended for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award on Saturday.
“Finally got a medal at the Olympics. God has really been kind. The immediate recognition has made the joy double,” the wrestler said with a smile, seemingly not very much concerned about the colour of the medal.
“I did a lot of hard work to reach this stage. I am happy that I was able to deliver for the country at the Olympics,” continued Yogeshwar as his phone rang without a pause, and the grappler trying to receive all the calls without complain.
As your eyes wander to find the elusive medal in the trophy cabinet, you realise that the prized metal rests in the safest custody.
The shields and trophies give you a fair idea about his achievements, his dedication towards the sport and the years of hard work that he has put in to be what he is today.
“My first medal was a wall clock. My father was very happy at my first achievement. Even when it fell and broke down my father made every attempt to get it repaired and hung it with a wire…but when we shifted to this house it got lost somewhere,” said the Olympian.
“I started wrestling at the age of eight or nine. There was an akhara near our home and it was from there that my interest in the sport grew.
“I used to go there in the morning, before the school, and once I was back, I again ran to the akhara. Soon it became like missing the first half of my school and spending the time in the akhara. My parents were very annoyed but they never discouraged me. My father especially supported me a lot.
“I couldn’t concentrate on my studies. All the time I used to wonder about performing in the akhara and my childhood coach, master Satbir, also encouraged me. It became a passion,” said Yogeshawar.
The wrestler though went on to complete his graduation from Maharshi Dayanand University, Rohtak. When asked what his subjects were, Yogeshwar really had to stress on his memory.
“History…yes it was history,” the 29-year-old recalled, even as the bruise under his right eye glistened.
“He was good in studies but he was better in wrestling,” said the proud mother of Yogeshwar, Sushila Devi.
It was in 1999 that Yogeshwar first came into prominence with a win at the World Cadet Championship, and the wrestler never looked back after that.
“My first major victory was in 1999 when I won a gold at the World Cadet Championship,” he said.
It was during this tournament that his friendship with Sushil Kumar grew deep after the two had first come together a few years earlier during a school championships.
Since then the two have walked together the path to success.
In 2003, Yogeshwar won his first major title in the senior category – a gold at the Commonwealth Championships.
The wrestler followed that up with a bronze at the 2006 Asian Games in the 60kg freestyle category, three days after his father died.
In between Yogeshwar had his first tryst with the Olympics, where he finished a distant 18th in the 55kg freestyle category.
While Sushil won a bronze at the Beijing Games, Yogeshwar suffered a heart-break losing his quarterfinal bout to Kenichi Yumoto of Japan in the last 10 seconds, but that only motivated him to come back stronger.
By Sushil’s own admission it was Yogeshwar, more than him, who was a medal contender at the 2008 Olympics.
Yogeshawar suffered a career threatening injury just after the Beijing Games but his resolve to make the next Olympics count kept him going through the difficult phase.
Yogeshwar once again proved his mettle by winning a gold at the Delhi commonwealth Games in 2010. He, however, opted out of the following Asian Games in Guangzhou, China only to return with a gold at the Asian Championships at the beginning of this year.
“If I would have won a medal in Beijing, probably I would have called time on my international career. The urge of winning a medal at the Olympics kept me going,” Yogeshwar had said earlier.
With his mother eager to see him get married, asked what were his plans after fulfilling his dream, Yogeshwar giggled, “Mom has given me four more years. After winning a bronze her greed has increased, she wants me to clinch a gold at the next Olympics.”