BRONZE MEDALLIST at the 2012 summer Olympics and Padma Shri award winning wrestler, Yogeshwar Dutt, is excited about the upcoming Pro Wrestling League (PWL), slated to begin in December.
Dutt is one of the most hailed wrestlers in India who has a list of medals to his name. He has won seven gold medals at different events which include the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, 2012 Asian Wrestling Championship, and three medals at the Commonwealth Wrestling Championship in 2003, 2005 and 2007.
In PWL, Dutt will represent his hometown team Haryana Hammers, who bought him for a sum of Rs. 39.70 lakhs. He is also the icon player for the team. Dutt was recently in Mumbai for the league's promotional event, where TFG caught up for a short chat with the Olympian.
What are your expectations as a player from this new league?
It gives me immense pleasure and joy about the fact that the league is here and it will soon begin. It will be a great advantage for the upcoming talent that we have. The talks about a wrestling league have been going around for a very long time and it will finally kickstart in 2015. PWL will make the sport popular, and wrestling is indeed a top sport. In case of Olympics, it is the No. 1 sport and I am at the top of my game. This league will help the sport grow in states where wrestling is missing at the moment.
In the auction for the league, Oksana Herhel surpassed you and Sushil Kumar to take the highest bid wrestler title; what are your thoughts on that?
To be honest, it is not of any significance to me; what is important here is only wrestling. Even if it was someone else in her place it would still not be a problem. The main thing at present is that there is a wrestling league that will take place now. It is great that a foreign wrestler went ahead of me, the icon player of the team, which shows that the auction format works well for both players and teams.
You hail from Haryana and now you will represent your hometown in the league; what are your expectations from the fans?
There is a lot of fan base for the sport in Haryana and now that I will be playing for Haryana, it will gather support and even if I would have been in any other team, people would have supported me. My main aim is to play and represent the country and win for the country, and when it comes to representing my hometown, nothing like it.
Next year is the Olympics. Would you consider this league to be a practise session ahead of the main event that you look forward to?
Yes it will be a good boost for all of us. I could not participate in the World Championship and the qualifications will begin in March. Now I am just out from an injury, so this league will help me know what my strengths and weakness are, as I will be up against other wrestlers who are medal winners. The first thing after this league would be to concentrate on the qualifying rounds for the Olympics because only after the qualifying round one can think of the Olympics.
The government has introduced the TOP Scheme for athletes participating in the Olympics and you have been included. Has it been helpful?
I am included in the scheme, but I haven't made any use of it and I don't think any wrestler will take advantage of it. There are organisations like the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ), who are really good for me. When I'm injured and I need anything they are helpful, so that is all I need. I don't see this scheme of being important in any way.
How do you think this league will help grow the sport?
The sport is very popular where I come from; everyone's in a way addicted to it. In states like Punjab and the small towns in the north, the craze for the sport exists. On the other hand, in states like Karnataka or anywhere down south the game has not made much impact and one can say it does not exist there. I want the sport to grow there and people should help grow and support the same. I want wrestlers to come from all parts of the country.
When did you decide that wrestling is something that you want to do?
I was only 6 or 7 years old when I was introduced to wrestling and at that time I wasn't aware of Olympics and Asian Games. It was a common phenomenon in my place and in some way or the other, one gets introduced to the sport. If I were from another state I wouldn't have been a wrestler today. I had my uncle who was my guide to the sport and that is when my interest increased even more. In 1996, I became aware of Olympics and that's when I decided I want to play in the event and win a medal for the country.