Wrestler Virender Singh has always been known as a training partner of India’s two-time Olympic medallist Sushil Kumar.
But life changed for the 28-year-old deaf grappler, nicknamed Goonga Pehlwan, as he gave India its only gold medal at the Deaflympics in Sofia, Bulgaria.
For all these years, Virender has lived under the shadow of Sushil Kumar. But with his third straight medal in the Deaflympics, Virender has finally come out of the shadows of India’s most successful grappler.
Competing in men’s 74 kg freestyle event in the 22nd Summer Deaflympics, the 28-year-old Virender defeated Oguz Donder of Turkey to defend his title. The bronze medals went to Hiavorh Adamian and Aleksandr Ochirovich Tsoktoev of Russia.
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Goonga Pehelwan won India’s first and only gold medal at the 2005 Deaflympics in Melbourne and followed it up with a silver medal at the World Deaf Wrestling Championships in 2008 in Yerevan, Armenia. At the 2009 Deaflympics in Taipei, Virender settled for bronze and added another bronze at the 2012 World Deaf Wrestling in Sofia.
Virender, a clerk with the Haryana Power Corporation, earns more from dangles where he fights for prize money ranging from Rs 5,000 to 100,000. Vivek polished his skills at the Chhatrasal Stadium, a nursery for some of India’s top wrestlers.