“Battle,” Ravi Dahiya says, “is steady. Generally, it’s exterior. Principally, it’s inside.”
The Olympic silver medallist turns philosophical whereas speaking about his job-hunting misadventures.
The story goes one thing like this: in 2015, after Dahiya began successful medals at junior Asian- and world-level tournaments, the Military approached him with a job supply. However the then-teenaged wrestler rejected it flat out, hoping to get aboard the Railways, like so a lot of his friends. “My goal was Railways in order that I might hold wrestling with a free thoughts,” Dahiya says. “Fauj mein lag jaata (might have gotten into the Military), however I mentioned no to them.”
As luck would have it, nonetheless, quickly after he snubbed the Military’s supply, Dahiya says Railways got here up with a notification which made solely Twelfth-pass candidates eligible for recruitment. For Dahiya, who needed to sacrifice formal schooling to deal with his wrestling profession, this was unhealthy information, and in addition the start of a collection of unlucky incidents.
In 2016, whereas making a comeback from an harm, Dahiya broke his finger. As he recovered from that, he was down with typhoid. For a wrestler whose recreation depends on energy, the bout with the bacterial an infection left him susceptible. “I misplaced within the junior nationals, within the choice trials… nothing was going my method,” Dahiya says.
Desperation slowly crept in. On the mat, his profession appeared to be headed nowhere. Off it, he had nothing to fall again on. So, Dahiya approached the Military to see if their supply was nonetheless open. “‘Aap hello le lo (Please take me)’, I pleaded with them.” However that practice, it turned out, had lengthy left the station. “They replied, ‘nahi, ab nahi le sakte aapko (we are able to’t take you now),’” Dahiya laughs, pauses for a bit as if to introspect, and provides, “you see, we get what we deserve.”
Meet Ravi Dahiya, the wrestler-philosopher.
Dahiya talks about one among his hardest phases with the identical lightness and ease with which he wears the tag of being an Olympic silver medallist.
After he dragged himself to the podium in Tokyo, sullen and sombre-faced, Dahiya puzzled ‘what was the purpose of’ a silver medal. Two months later, his sentiment stays the identical. “Theek hai, jeet gaye toh jeet gaye (It’s okay, I gained),” he says. “However how a lot ought to we rejoice only one medal? It’s not as if there may be nothing left to realize anymore. That is solely the start.”
The 23-year-old is shy to the purpose of being dismissive about his achievement however in actuality, he has busted nearly each fantasy that many Indian athletes usually search shelter in to justify their under-performance.
As a little-known teenager, he gate-crashed the 57kg weight class, one of the crucial crowded and fiercely aggressive classes in India. He upset some established names from Haryana, Delhi and Maharashtra to interrupt into the workforce for the 2019 World Championship, the place he gained a bronze medal in his maiden look and secured an Olympic berth.
In Tokyo, Dahiya shattered the commonly-held notion that it’s robust to medal at debut Olympics. However he didn’t take care of reputations, confirmed zero nerves and bulldozed previous a few of the world’s high wrestlers, together with a cinematic takedown of Asian champion Nurislam Sanayev, earlier than in the end shedding to two-time world champion Zavur Uguev within the gold-medal match.
Come to consider it, Dahiya continues to be a sophomore in world wrestling. But, his opponents dread him as a result of he ‘retains coming again at you’, no matter the match scenario. And his means to stage comebacks is already the stuff of legends, a minimum of in Indian wrestling.
Ask Dahiya about this and he quips, “bas, maalik ka aashirwad aur mehnat (Simply the Almighty’s blessings and exhausting work).”
It’s nearly not possible to inform what Dahiya is pondering on the mat. And he’s inscrutable outdoors it. However the morsels of profound philosophy he throws are a window into the thought technique of one among Indian sport’s most fascinating minds.
“How we expect relies upon loads on the corporate we hold,” Dahiya says. “In my case, I’m surrounded by household and mates who hold drilling sense into me. , after I acquired the silver, they advised me, ‘okay, you gained a medal in your first Olympics but when let this get into your head, you’ll be left behind. So, stay grounded.’”
That, he provides, comes naturally to him. “I’ve reached this far after years of wrestle, which has made me humble,” Dahiya says. “Fortunately for me, I had individuals who held my hand and confirmed me the correct path at essential junctures. It’s important to have such mentors.”
His ‘largest interval of wrestle’, Dahiya says, was in 2010-11. It had been a few years for the reason that younger boy had left his dwelling in Haryana’s Nahari village to affix the akhara at Chhatrasal Stadium, a wrestling nursery in North-West Delhi. This was the time when there was an enormous uptick in wrestling round these elements after Sushil Kumar, a Chhatrasal product, gained the bronze medal at Beijing 2008. And within the glut of wrestlers, Dahiya was misplaced.
“I had completely no outcomes to indicate and my household had additionally misplaced persistence,” Dahiya says. “They got here to the stadium sooner or later and mentioned, ‘chalo ghar (let’s go dwelling).’ My luggage have been packed and I used to be nearly to depart when one among my earliest mentors, Arun, stepped in.”
It helped that Arun was from the identical village as Dahiya and by some means, he satisfied his mother and father to let him keep again. Then, Arun took Dahiya for some assessments, which revealed that he had huge iron deficiencies. “That intervention helped. We course-corrected instantly and there was an prompt enchancment in my efficiency. I gained gold at nationals, then in Asia… issues have been lastly beginning to work out.”
issues are understanding particularly when Sushil spots you. Now behind bars for alleged homicide, it’s mentioned that the two-time Olympic medallist has an unerring eye for expertise. In 2015, Sushil really useful Olympic Gold Quest (OQG) to signal Dahiya together with one other wrestler, Deepak Punia, who got here agonisingly near successful a bronze medal on the Tokyo Olympics.
“Sushil referred to as him an distinctive expertise, and praised his work ethic,” OGQ’s chief govt Viren Rasquinha says. “Ravi was so shy even again then that when Sushil and I had a gathering with him in 2015, he would look down whereas speaking and didn’t communicate greater than a phrase or two.”
Step by step, Dahiya cast a repute of being a no-fuss wrestler, somebody who was not involved if he was coaching in India or overseas, below an Indian coach or a foreigner. He was content material so long as he had a mat to coach and a meal to eat. However on the mat, he was by no means glad it doesn’t matter what he achieved.
“It’s one thing a motivator, this individual named Vikrant, has instilled in me. I’ve been in contact with him for a few years, and he’s at all times pushed me to realize extra,” Dahiya says. “One line he mentioned after the 2019 World Championship has stayed with me: ‘be proud of what you obtain, however don’t be glad.’ That’s what I consider in now.”
The wrestle is now inside. The Tokyo silver has been a life-altering second for Dahiya. The problem, he says, is to proceed dwelling the identical easy way of life with out an excessive amount of fuss. “If I need to proceed competing for lengthy and win extra medals, I’ll need to dwell a traditional life,” Dahiya says.
Thus far, he’s balanced it effectively. Dahiya’s rustic appeal has made him a showstopper at a vogue present. He has spoken to college students in regards to the significance of correct schooling. And he has travelled to holy cities for some solitude, his thought of a trip. However now, he’s again the place he belongs: on a wrestling mat on the Chhatrasal Stadium, the place his medal has lifted the gloom that had settled following the incidents of violence earlier this yr.
Munesh Kumar, Dahiya’s physiotherapist, says one look round Chhatrasal is sufficient to perceive the influence he has had on the younger wrestlers. “For the wrestlers, it was robust to deal with their coaching after the incident. However Ravi’s medal lifted everybody’s spirits,” Kumar says. “When he returned, there have been large celebrations and quite a lot of younger wrestlers are as soon as once more motivated to work exhausting and practice.”
Chhatrasal is also where Dahiya’s job search finally ended. In 2019, he did get his dream job with the Railways. However after the Tokyo Olympics, he was provided the submit of assistant director on the stadium, which he calls his dwelling. Dahiya isn’t fascinated with occupying the seat only for the sake of it. If he will get free time, he desires to teach himself correctly to develop into a ‘good mentor’, similar to he’s had over time. “ athlete can get an excellent submit. However you additionally want the information to be of assist to others,” Dahiya says. “No matter you do, your goal must be clear.”
Proper now, although, his goal is only one. “In Tokyo, I had little doubt that I’d win a medal. Simply that, I had focused a gold. I’m not saying my opponent didn’t deserve it. However I simply hope that in Paris, I will probably be extra deserving.”