Wednesday, August 20, 2008
Kumar & Kumar Win, Kumar & Kumar Lose
Maybe the locals don't notice these things, but the Doctor and Future Mrs. Logistics have been in awe of how many of the Indian Olympians are named Kumar, specifically boxers and wrestlers. I realize that it's a popular name here, but India had 3 medal hopefuls in boxing (Akhil, Jitender and Vijender) and not only are they all named Kumar, but they all train at the Bhiwani Boxing Club. And they're not related.
There were two Kumars who won yesterday. Wrestler Sushil Kumar (arguably the most under-appreciated of all of the Kumars) took home bronze in the Men's Freestyle 66kg event. Boxer Vijender Kumar, competing in the middleweight division, won his quarterfinal match, ensuring him at least a bronze with gold and silver still a possibility. This means that India will win at least 3 medals in Beijing, its highest Olympic total ever. Keep in mind that this is a country of over a billion people.
Although Vijender was the most succesful of all of the Kumars coming in to the Olympics, much of the country (as well as international visitors such as myself) had recently beome obsessed with charismatic bantamweight boxer Akhil Kumar, who had beaten world champion Sergey Vodapyanov of Russia in the Round of 16. Unfortunately Akhil lost in the quarterfinals, devastating not only myself and a billion of his Indian countrymen, but also his teammates including Vijender Kumar who described him as India's Rocky Balboa and promised to avenge his loss, which he did.
Flyweight boxer Jitender Kumar (not to be confused with middleweight boxer Jitender Kumar), also lost in the quarterfinals yesterday. Jitender consoled himself by heading out to White Castle with his Korean friend Harold.
As an admitted sufferer of Kumar-mania, what I've found most enthralling about them is that boxing and wrestling are totally accessible sports. While I do tip my hat to India's first and only (for now) gold medal winner Abhinav Bindra, he's a privileged rich kid whose dad built him a high-tech shooting range in their backyard. That's not something that most aspiring young Indian athletes, or even American or European kids for that matter, can expect. Abhinav's father is a wealthy businessman and Abhinav himself holds an MBA degree. Both Sushil and Vijender's fathers are bus drivers. Sushil had to share a mattress with another wrestler (in a room with 20 other wrestlers, not to mention rats and cockroaches) while training for the games. All of the Kumars come from much more humble upbringings and are thus arguably a greater source of inspiration not only to their countrymen, but also to athletes from developing countries around the world.