LONDON: India's Sushil Kumar wants to complete his Olympic medal collection by winning gold at the 2016 Games in Rio after taking wrestling silver on the final day of action in London on Sunday.
Defeat by Tatsuhiro Yonemitsu of Japan saw Kumar, the 2010 world champion, add Olympic silver to the bronze he won in Beijing four years ago.
No sooner had he lost, Kumar was eyeing a full set of medals in Brazil, having become the first Indian competitor in an individual sport to be on the podium at successive Olympics.
“Where I practise in India, I had good opponents to practise with,” the 29-year-old, from Najafgarh in south-west Delhi, explained.
“This silver medal has been possible because of them. At the next Olympics it's going to be even better,” added Kumar, India's flag-bearer at the opening ceremony.
Kumar was well beaten in the final, losing 3-1 as Yonemitsu became the first Japanese man to win a wrestling gold medal for 24 years.
But Kumar's achievement was widely praised by a variety of sports stars back home, with cricket great Sachin Tendulkar leading the way.
“Sushil has done us proud by winning India its second silver medal,” tweeted the master batsman. “We are proud of his dedication, commitment and effort. Well done Sushil!!”
In London, India also won a silver through pistol shooter Vijay Kumar as well as four bronze medals by badminton star Saina Nehwal, rifle shooter Gagan Narang, boxer Mary Kom and Sushil Kumar's fellow wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt, in the 60kg freestyle category.
Narang, who opened India's account in London by winning the men's 10-metre air rifle, said: “This is a great show by Indian wrestling. Sushil has inspired a new generation of wrestlers.
“This time he has gone one step ahead and created history.”Dutt's home state of Haryana announced they'd be awarding him 10 million rupees ($181,000) in recognition of his bronze.
However, Kumar – looking to follow in the footsteps of Abhinav Bindra, whose shooting gold in Beijing remains India's only individual Olympic title – said the greatest prize of all might have been his on Sunday.
Kumar explained he'd suffered a stomach upset after his semi-final, having endured a gruelling path to the final that started with an opening contest against 2008 gold medallist Ramazan Sahin of Turkey.
“I had a stomach infection but difficulty and pain are part of the sport, I don't want to make excuses,” said Kumar.
His semi-final win over Akzhurek Tanatarov of Kazakhstan was marred by allegations he'd bit his opponent.
But Kumar insisted: “These are ridiculous allegations. These things (blood injuries) happen.”