Indian pugilists made history at the AIBA World Boxing Championships in October last year, when a record number of boxers booked an Olympic berth in the very first qualifying event. The tournament witnessed 4 Indian boxer make it to the quarter-final round and qualifying for the 2012 London Games. 19 year old Vikas Krishan (69kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg) along with rookie boxer L Devendro Singh (49kg) cemented their place in the mega event . ?This was India?s best performance in any World Championships or Olympic qualifiers as yet. At the Chicago World Championships before the Beijing Olympics, we had just one boxer making the cut. Our boys put up a sterling show against world class boxers in Baku and it was certainly the highlight of the year for Indian boxing?, states Brig PK Muralidharan Raja, Secretary General of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation.
As we settle into the New Year focus of the Indian boxing team is now on qualification in the other weight categories as well as preparation of the qualified boxers. A breed of medal hungry pugilists can be witnessed grinding it out in the National Boxing Camp at NIS Patiala. For these fighters, who began their training on the very first day of 2012, there is nothing greater than a chance to represent their nation at the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world. The Indian Boxing team is leaving no stone unturned in their preparation for the quadrennial event. 40 boxers are engaged in a honing their skills under the watchful eye of Chief National Coach GS Sandhu. The preparatory camp that will continue till the Olympics, boasts of a rigorous training schedule which involves general & specific fitness, technical & tactical training along with sparring sessions, among other things.
Coach Sandhu said that the training has been divided into two groups, one for the boxers who have qualified and the other for the rest of the weight categories. He added, ?This is the final stretch leading up to the Olympics which is our main objective. We have drawn specific plans that involve individual training for each boxer. Every coach is handling not more than 2-3 boxers, to make sure the boys peak at the right time so as to achieve the desired objectives.?
For the lot still looking to secure an Olympic berth, which includes some of the big names in Indian Boxing, like Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar, Dinesh Kumar and Suranjoy Singh, the Asian Qualifiers at Astana, Kazakhstan would be their only chance to book a ticket to London. Out of the 56 quota places allocated to the Asian Continent, 25 will be up for grabs in April at the Asian Qualifiers. Vijender, who struck out in the first round of the 2011 World Championships at the hands of Cuba's Emilio Correa will be looking to make amends in Astana. The former world number one, if selected in the trails for the Qualifiers, will have a decent opportunity to secure a quota place as the middle weight category has got five (5) Olympics berths to offer. But the figures don?t seem too amusing to the 26 year old; his only goal is to make the cut. ?It obviously makes a difference to know the numbers, but at this point of time my only focus is the continental qualifiers and to do whatever it takes to secure an Olympic quota. I will try my level best rest is up to god?, he added.
Akhil edged out the challenge of youngsters like Shiva Thapa, Jitender Kumar and Chhote Lal Yadav for the spot in the bantamweight (56kg) division of the Indian Team for the 2011 World Championship. But he crashed out following his second-round loss to fourth seed Nevin John of Ireland. The 2008 Olympic Quarter finalist is currently training in Pune for the next round of World Series Boxing. He recently recovered from a calf injury and will be looking to replicate his success at the trails and get selected for the Asian Qualifiers. This might just be Akhil?s last attempt at an Olympic medal. If selected in the Indian squad, with just three (3) quota places available in his weight division; he would have to bring his A game to just qualify for the London Games ? a fact that might seem to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the 30 year old. ?There is no pressure, although I know this might be the last time I compete in the Olympics or attempt for a medal. All I can do is prepare well with the right intentions and intensity and that?s exactly what I am doing?, expressed the 2006 CWG Gold medallist.
The litmus test for the Indian boxers looking to qualify for the Olympics will be the selection trial scheduled to be held in February, which will determine the team travelling to Astana. A view echoed by Coach Sandhu ? talking about India?s chances at the qualifiers he stated the nature of competition will be very unpredictable and added, ?It is very difficult to predict anything, but our preparation is very good and there is no doubt that we will return with a favourable performance?.