Wrestler Sandeep Tomar at SAI Centre in Sonepat on Thursday. Express photo by Oinam Anand. 30 June 2016

Malakpur, a tiny village in Uttar Pradesh is littered with houses decorated with ‘Olympian’ board every few feet. Some with details like – an Olympian, Asian Champio… and so on. This tiny village in Uttar Pradesh doesn’t worship cricket like the rest of the country. Their first love is wrestling and the wrestlers enjoy the same stardom as cricketers.

When Sandeep Tomar got selected to represent the country at Rio Olympics, it hardly came as a surprise to people in his village. With this feat, he also made Malakpur to be the only village which can boast of producing four Olympians in wrestling or any other individual sport. The villagers want Sandeep to return not just as an Olympian but as the village’s first medallist.

Tomar comes with a strong background of winning. In the nine competitions, he has taken part in outside India in the 57kg category, Tomar has never returned without a medal – four gold, one silver, and four bronze. This has given immense hope to the villagers and the fact that Sandeep’s first international tournament was in Rio where he stood first amongst 10 others.

Navy coach Kuldeep Singh, the head coach of a local akhara, has trained more than 500 wrestlers at his modest mitti akhara, where Sandeep started at the age of 12. “There have been many wrestlers in our village and we have Olympians as well. We are proud that our boys are serving the nation,” he said beaming with pride.

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And as Sandeep Tomar is ready to leave for Olympics, a young girl rushes to him and says, “You have brought me shoes, dresses, everything. But this time, just bring home a medal.” Social Samajwadi wishes Sandeep the best of luck and hopes the prays for the same, as his sister and the rest of the country.