Going for gold but wrestler’s road to Rio isn’t paved with gold

After sweeping up the national wrestling titles, the Indian-born athlete is attempting to become the first Indian-Australian gold medallist.

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In sporting circles there are different opinions as to what makes a good wrestler; strength, stamina or determination.

Vinod Kumar has those, but to him fitness isn’t everything.

“First thing you make a good person, second thing you have to respect everybody.”

From a small village north of New Delhi, Kumar made the decision to leave India after being thrown off a moving train by associates of a wrestler he beat in competition.

He arrived in Australia as an international student in 2010, but after showing his skill as a wrestler he was quickly taken into the national wrestling team and last year he was granted citizenship.

“Australia is a very good country this one, a sports country, then first time I try I win gold medal in nationals.”

He went on to win five more national championships, adding to his 20-medal haul since arriving in Australia.

Now in August he’ll represent the country at the Olympic Games

“I tell firstly my mum, and she always asking now are you going to Olympic, when you going to Olympic.”

But the road to Rio isn’t paved in gold.

Kumar rents a room in house east of Melbourne, with three room-mates.

It’s not unusual for Kumar to finish a nightshift working as a bouncer and go directly to the gym for his first of three daily training sessions, but still he often has to borrow money from friends to pay the rent.

Indian Community leader Molina Asthana has created Kumar a crowd-funding website, and is calling on the Indian community to get behind the athlete.

“He’s a very proud man he doesn’t want to do that, but we need to come out and support as a community we will try and support him as much as possible, we also hope the government can support him as well. We will try and do some crowd-funding for him.”

Ms Asthana says there should be more support through government sporting agencies to help athletes who have no family connections in Australia.

She says if Kumar wins gold in Rio the implications for the Indian-expat community, and for wider Australia, will be huge.

“It’s a victory for everyone, I think it’s a victory for our multiculturalism, it’s a victory for the Indian community, it’s a victory for him and it would be absolutely fantastic if that happens.”

Despite the struggle, 31-year old Kumar says he’s determined to become the first Indian-Australian Olympic gold medallist.

“Job also important here but my dream is the Olympic that’s why I do so much wrestling. That’s what is important for me.”

Coach Kostya Emerkovic says the whole wrestling team is doing all they can to get Kumar to an Olympic podium.

“Because the way he is now is’s not just his work, it’s not just my work, the whole team work because these guys are helping him.”