Ravi Dahiya, the Olympic silver medallist from Tokyo 2020, needs no introduction. His rousing welcome in August 2021 was all over the news and billboards. Even after this stardom, he is focused on his game and makes no fuss about the limelight or media interactions. The first thing he asked me while saying yes to a small tête-à-tête was, “Bhai kitne der ka karna hai?” which, if translated from Hindi, would sound like, “How long will you be here ?” He meant no disrespect, but time is everything in a wrestler’s life, especially when preparing for a big tournament.
Ravi, now in Birmingham for the Commonwealth Games 2022, was preparing at the Chhatrasal Academy in Delhi when we met him. Fresh from practice, he was seen weighing himself on the scale. Throwing a bottle of Gatorade to me, he asked, “Roti khaoge (Would you like some breakfast)?”.
Ravi Dahiya cutting down weight for Commonwealth Games
Saying no thank you to his offer, I asked him, “How is the weight cut down going on? “See, every time there is some competition, a wrestler has to cut down to get fit for his category. I have to play two back-to-back competitions, the CWG 2022 and World Wrestling Championships, in a gap of just 40 days, that’s why the routine has to be perfect every time and on all days,” he said directly.
Chhatrasal stadium, home to stars like Sushil Kumar, Bajrang Punia and Deepak Punia, to name a few, is bustling with wrestlers of all ages. While Ravi got ready for the chat, hordes of aspiring wrestlers were seen either around the traditional akhada near the small Hanuman temple or simply having breakfast or cleaning after rigorous training. No one was sitting idle or in any kind of awe that an Olympic silver medalist was present among them.
For an outsider, it was awkward not to notice the nonchalant manner in which things happened here until we met Ravi’s coach and academy’s lead trainer, Lalit Kumar. He was chatting with some elderly men who had come from Madhya Pradesh to click a photo with Ravi.
“This is very normal here. Ravi came here when he was just ten years old. All the wrestlers know him as their brother, and he trains like that only. For new kids, it takes time, but they too understand that on the mat, everyone is just a trainee here,” Lalit explained.
Training for tightly scheduled tournaments
Taking a cue from my conversation with Lalit about training, I asked Ravi if it was easy to train for back-to-back big events. The 24-year-old even had to skip a ranking series tournament to participate in his first ever Commonwealth Games.
“It is not easy. But as wrestlers, we, along with our coaches, prepare a proper schedule to manage things. I did skip the Rome ranking series because Commonwealth Games are important where I will be representing the nation and helping India win an important medal,” Ravi said before adding that it would help him stay focussed for the World Championships.
With no Russia at World Championship, will it be easy for Ravi to aim for gold?
Due to Russia’s war on Ukraine, all the sporting bodies in the world have boycotted the nation. Traditionally a powerhouse, the absence of Russian wrestlers could benefit Ravi, who lost out on an Olympic gold to a Russian. But the Indian wrestler has a different view.
“Russians are strong no doubt and if they participated, I would have had to face one in the semi-final at World Championships. But that does not make things easy. Whether it is Russia, US or Iran, you can’t get complacent in your approach, just because some strong contender is missing from your pool,” says Ravi.
He continues, “If not today, tomorrow I will have to face the Russians or even stronger opponents. The Paris Olympics are just two years away. I am preparing to face the best, so Russia or no Russia, I am always aiming for gold.”
Focusing on the future and learning from the past: Ravi’s mantra in life
Ravi’s immaculate focus on gold was evident in almost every answer he gave. Going back to his Tokyo Olympic bout where he narrowly missed out on gold, I asked him, “How does one come back from such a narrow loss so soon? Not just in wrestling, but in life itself, it is tough to come back from situations where you thought that you have reached the zenith and just then you were slammed back on earth.”
With a sly laugh, Ravi said, “We can’t move forward before going back. So it’s not that I forget the past. I learn from it and move on. You can’t just hold on to the fact that you lost gold. Right after that, there were such wild celebrations too. So will I hold on to that for life as well? Obviously not, life moves on and one has to move on with it.”
“I set a target and try to achieve that. From one tournament to another I keep on repeating the same exercise. Learn from past mistakes, set a target for the future and give your best to achieve it. I would recommend this to all as well.”
Does Ravi Dahiya watch movies?
Is life always that serious for Ravi? Does he not watch movies or listen to songs to relax? Which is his latest favourite, and what songs does he dance to? Is he a Rocky fan too? With these questions in mind, I finally asked him on a parting note if he could delve into his relaxation routine.
Shying away from it initially, Ravi said he doesn’t usually get time to watch movies or listen to songs after such a tiring training regime. He did mention Vickrant Mahajan, though, an actor turned motivational speaker.
“Usually it is very hard to watch movies or anything time taking during busy training schedules. However, when I am free I like to hang out with Vickrant Ji. He is a motivational speaker from Jammu. He is full of positivity and every time I meet him, I am filled with positivity too,” Ravi said. But on being probed further, Ravi finally came out with the truth about his love for inspirational movies.
“Dekho Ji movies to kam dekhte hain, par haan Three Idiots ho gayi, Maanjhi ho gayi, ye jarur dekhi hain (I watch movies very rarely but have swatched Three Idiots and Manjhi). I like to watch movies which portray the struggle of an individual and how it helped him reach his goals. They inspire me to do better in my own life,” he said.
In Birmingham now, we hope that Ravi is inspired enough to win gold in his first ever Commonwealth Games and then follow it with a strong performance in the World Championships. His bouts in Birmingham 2022 begin and end on August 06, 2022. Ravi will be participating in the Men’s 57 kg Freestyle category.