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Tokyo Olympics: Ravi Dahiya brings hope back to Chhatrasal Stadium

The iconic Akhada blooms back to life with its protege Ravi Dahiya bagging a Tokyo Olympics Silver medal but the absence of Sushil Kumar was felt, say coaches.

Written by: Aditya K Halder @addyhalder New Delhi Published on: August 06, 2021 17:04 IST
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Young wrestlers of Chhatrasal Stadium gather to watch Ravi Dahiya's gold medal match at the Stadium's training hall on Thursday. (Inset) Ravi Dahiya poses with the Silver medal in Tokyo.

Scores of budding wrestlers on barefoot tiptoed onto the mat of the main training hall of the Chhatrasal Stadium on late Thursday afternoon. All their eyes were glued to the flatscreen TV that seemed out of place on the old and shabby walls of the training arena. 

With Ravi Kumar Dahiya's gold medal bout set to start any moment, the young grapplers were finding it hard to hold their enthusiasm. It was hard to believe that this was the same place that was at the centre stage of a murder case and had star Olympian Sushil Kumar as the prime accused and is currently jailed in Tihar.

"It feels so lively here again," his personal trainer  Arun Kumar tells with Ravi bout all set to begin. "Whatever happened in the past, Ravi's success today showed that Chhatrasaal Stadium is all about great wrestlers like him and will always be. The kids sitting here are the future Ravi and Sushil Kumar."

However, when Ravi ultimately had to settle for a silver medal after a fight till the death against Russian Zagur Uguev, it was clear from the reactions of the youngsters watching the bout -- and the wrestler himself -- that they wanted more than a second place as the crowd quickly withered away with an eerie silence presiding over the hall.

Of course, the elders in the room tried to tell the kids "buck up, It's still a Silver!" while strangers in the hall were left puzzled at the way the celebrations died down. However, a peek into his dingy room just adjoining the stadium soon revealed why a second place just wasn't enough.

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Ravi Kumar Dahiya's room at the Chhatrasal Stadium. (Inset) Ravi with personal trainer Arun Kumar.

Ravi's accommodation, which can barely fit two-person but houses three to four occupants with walls no different to that of the training hall, was exactly the place where the dream of an Olympic medal was sown and a firm reminder of the same was planted just above Ravi's bed in a photo of an Olympic gold medal.

"He always dreamt of a Gold medal. That's all he wants," says Arun, who quit wrestling after a back injury in 2019 to focus on training Ravi. "Knowing him and how focussed he is towards his goal, he won't stop until he gets that Gold. Not many saw that but Sushil Pehalwan ji did and always kept him under his tutelage when we were training abroad or the national camp."

That's what Chhatrasaal has always done for its wrestler when a special talent comes their way with Dronacharya Awardee 'Mahabali' Satpal Singh honing skills of leading Indian wrestlers. At the top of that list sits his favourite Sushil and the iconic wrestler did the same for Ravi, says coach Jayveer Dahiya. 

"This medal is also down to Pehelwan Ji (Sushil), who always saw the quality wrestler in him and guided him accordingly about the challenges of international wrestling," says an emotional Jayveer. " After all the hours he spent with him in training, I am sure he would have expected to win the Gold medal today but would be proud of him for giving his all till the end."

It's hard to tell how and when will Chhatrasal's favourite son will return home and but it's clear that Ravi Dahiya has washed away the stain of shame from its name and re-established the stadium as the home of the biggest Indian wrestlers.


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