Coach Rao on a mission to get the boxers fighting fit for Olympic medals

Venkateswara Rao has been working as the chief coach of the Centre of Excellence in Guwahati and training a select group of 14 boxers who can win medals in the next Olympics and the 2024 Games.

Renowned SAI boxing coach and Dronacharya I. Venkateswara Rao at his residence in Visakhapatnam on Tuesday.   -  Special Arrangement

For long, Vishakapatnam has been the base for Sports Authority of India boxing coach and Dronacharya awardee I. Venkateswara Rao. For the last one year, the 59-year-old Rao has been working as the chief coach of the Centre of Excellence in Guwahati and training a select group of 14 boxers (10 women and four men) who can win medals in the next Olympics and the 2024 Games.

“This is a SAI scheme started in six different centres across India and the Guwahati centre essentially caters to the North-East region. Some of the trainees here include big names like Lovlina Borgohain, Jamuna Boro besides Vizag boxers B.  Mounika, J. Revathi and B. Likitha," explains Rao in a chat with Sportstar on Tuesday from Visakhapatnam.

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“Yes, this is a long-term training programme with emphasis not just on teaching or improving skills but providing the desired scientific support  combined with exposure to major meets including at national and international level,” said the respected coach, who has produced 10 World championship medalists and many champions at Asian level.

“Every year-end, there is a critical review of the performances and the non-performers will be weeded out,” the former national silver medallist said.

“It is a different kind of challenge for any coach because one has to handle boxers with different mindsets. You need to be very tactful in handling to get the best results out of them even while ensuring strict discipline. I am enjoying this since I have been doing this for the last 35 years,” Rao explained. There are also two Andhra girls - Monica (64 kg) and Sirisha (52 kg) - training at the Centre of Excellence.

“Yes, the target is pretty obvious - to win an Olympics medal. And, the consistent performances of the Indian boxers, both men and women, in the recent past is a big factor to feel confident, if not over-confident. And, these results are  primarily because of the Federation’s efforts, the planning and implementation by SAI in coordination with the Union Sports Ministry. Now, not many can complain about lack of support in boxing,”  says the Level-3 coach.  It is the highest level in coaching and only Level-3 coaches are allowed to travel to World championships.

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“I love to be there in the ring and interact with these gifted boxers who can be the stars of tomorrow. They have the potential and we only try to mould the inherent talent into performing champions,” said Rao, who is also a qualified judge.

Other plans? “Well, after retirement, I want to set up a full-fledged boxing Academy in Vizag and groom the abundance of talent available in and around that City with the support of the State Government,” he concluded.

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