Sushil Kumar earned Olympic medals in freestyle wrestling at 66kg in Beijing and London, but his greatest sporting accomplishment came in 2010 when he won a freestyle world championship in Moscow. Now, on the eve of the 2013 FILA World Championships of Wrestling, Kumar tells a story of attempted rigging which took place before his 2010 finals match. The Times of India provides Kumar's account of Russians trying to buy a favorable result:
"I was approached through a coach to throw the final bout. I was offered about Rs 3 crore.Wrestling is huge in Russia, and I suppose they didn't expect an Indian to enter the final,"
A crore is worth approximately 150,000 American dollars, and Kumar refused the bribe. Kumar went on to win his finals match against Russia's Alan Gogaev, 2 periods to 0. The match can be seen here. Additionally, Kumar claims he reported the attempt at match buying to FILA, international wrestling's governing body, but to no avail.
"I had told even in 2010 about this incident, but nobody responded. I'm not in FILA (wrestling's world governing body) or any other federation, so I can't say if the Russian's medal should be taken away,"
Kumar is one of the most accomplished non-cricket playing athletes in Indian history, mere changes in his training environment received the attention of mainstream Indian media. He reportedly makes around $160,000 a year endorsing several products in India, including Mountain Dew, though he turned down a chance to increase that revenue by half when he refused an offer to appear in advertisements related to alcoholic beverages.
Though he may have spurned Russian bribe money in 2010, his world championship did not go without financial rewards. Three different Indian organizations gave him awards together worth almost $50,000. Along with a cash gift, the Indian Railway Ministry, Kumar's employer and patron to a number of world-class Indian wrestlers, gave Kumar a promotion to a higher paying position within the Ministry. After Kumar's silver medal in London, the total amount of monetary rewards he has received through his career, if Wikipedia is to believed, exceeds $900,000 in value.
Sadly, whispers and rumors of match fixing and attempted fixing, usually on the part of Russians, pervade international wrestling. If these rumors are to be believed, in many instances, athletes from more impoverished countries, like Cuba, become the target of bribe attempts. The 2011 Greco-Roman heavyweight world finals match, featuring Cuba's two time Olympic champion Mijain Lopez and Turkey's Riza Kayaalp, is widely believed to be fixed to the Turk's benefit (similar suspicions persist over another of Lopez's world finals matches).
Bloody Elbow will bring updates to this story if anything arises from it. Sadly, if history has taught us anything about wrestling on the international level, this issue will probably just be forgotten.