Ravi Kumar Dahiya – Overview into the Olympic Games
India’s mark on the podiums for Wrestling was evident for the past few editions of the Olympics; in Tokyo this year, Ravi Kumar Dahiya made sure that he continued that tradition. Clinching the silver medal in the men’s 57 kg freestyle category, Dahiya became the second Indian wrestler after Sushil Kumar in 2012 to win a silver medal in the sport.
This medal marks India’s bagging of medals in wrestling in the last four editions of the Olympic Games. It started with Sushil Kumar bagging a bronze in 2008, Sushil Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt in 2012 winning a silver and bronze respectively, Sakshi Malik bringing home a bronze in 2016, and in the 2020 edition, it’s Ravi Kumar Dahiya with silver and Bajrang Punia with a bronze.
Starting out at the age of 10, Ravi Kumar Dahiya was trained in Delhi under the supervision of a renowned coach, Satpal Singh. Recording his first major result with a silver in the U-23 world championship in 2018, it wasn’t long before the young wrestler from Sonipat made it to the big leagues. In the 2019 world championship, he finished third overall and came home with the bronze.
This result booked his berth for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and was his best result up until that point. The very same year, he was unbeaten in the Pro Wrestling League as a part of the winning team, the Haryana Steelers. Dahiya’s medal run did not end there as he went on to win back-to-back gold medals at the 2020 and 2021 Asian championships.
Going into Tokyo 2020 under the shadow of Bajrang Punia and Vinesh Phogat, Dahiya was not exactly a contender for a medal in the eyes of the public. Having trained in Russia prior to this, the wrestler was ready to prove his worth. Using strength, stamina and technical superiority to his advantage, the 23-year-old was able to out-do most of his opponents on his way to the Olympic Games and throughout the course of it.
His first challenge lay in the ring against Colombian wrestler, Tigreros Urbano who he managed to beat in a stunning 13-2 victory. Following the win, Dahiya went up against the much more experienced 28-year-old Bulgarian, Georgi Valentinov Vangelov. Sticking on to his winning ways, the wrestler from India beat Vangelov 14-4.
The road ahead would mean Ravi Kumar Dahiya would have to stay on his feet, as he was now in the semi-final round. Going up against Kazakhstan’s Nurislam Sanayev, he made an incredible comeback from trailing by 1-9 to making it 5-9. With Sanayev requiring a medical time-out, Dahiya made use of his chance to get the better of his opponent to win the bout and advance into the finals.
He had made it! Ravi Kumar Dahiya was in the final! Now that he had made it, he had to face his biggest challenge yet. That challenge was Russia’s very own Zavur Uguev. Competing under the banner of the Russian Olympic Committee, Uguev was one of the country’s most notable wrestlers.
Ravi Kumar Dahiya would be going up against an opponent he had faced before, knowing well in hand what the Russian would be bringing to the ring. As the match progressed, the two-time World Championship gold medalist proved to be too much for Ravi Kumar Dahiya. Despite his best efforts and him putting up a fight till the end, the Russian’s might proved to be too much for Ravi Kumar Dahiya.
With his 4-7 loss in the final, however, he successfully added yet another medal to India’s tally. He may have lost, but he returns to the country as not just an Olympic medalist, but also as a hero.
What comes next
Upon his return to the country, Dahiya will receive an amount of Rs. 4 crores, a government job and will also get a plot of land from the Haryana government. According to Haryana’s Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar, the village of Nahri, the home of Dahiya, will soon have an indoor wrestling stadium that will be equipped with modern facilities.
His reaction to the news was, “It’s great news! Nahari has sent athletes to the Olympics in the past as well, and my village needs many facilities. I’m glad that all the people, especially youngsters there will get more opportunities to train”.
When asked about his plans, the wrestler replied that though he was happy with his outcome in Tokyo, he was looking forward to having an opportunity to turn his silver medal into a gold one in Paris 2024.