Manish Kaushik: I knew I would win a World C’ships medal

The Indian pugilist had a stellar run at the Championships before ending up with a bronze.

Manish Kaushik (in picture) took down the fourth seed — Baatarsukhiin Chinzorig of Mongolia — en route to his bronze medal.   -  PTI

India’s Manish Kaushik was sure of a podium-finish at the World Championships the day he triumphed in the selection trials. He went on to win the bronze medal, after going down 0-5 to top-seeded Cuban Andy Gomez Cruz on Friday, in Ekaterinburg, Russia.

“My draw was tough and before that I had a tough trial bout against Shiva [Thapa]. Once I beat him, I got the confidence that I would win a world medal,” Kaushik told PTI in an interview, referring to his long-standing home rivalry with Thapa, a three-time Asian medallist and a 2015 world bronze-medallist.

Kaushik can take heart from a stellar run at the Championships in the 63kg category. Among the boxers he took down was Baatarsukhiin Chinzorig, the No. 4 seed from Mongolia, an Asian Games silver-medallist and a two-time Asian Championships medal winner.

Despite his debutant status in Ekaterinburg, Kaushik wasn’t exactly a rookie. He is a silver medallist from the Commonwealth Games in 2018.

His initiation to boxing coincided with its phenomenal rise in popularity in India after Vijender Singh clinched the bronze medal at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Vijender belonged to Bhiwani, the cradle of Indian boxing, just five kilometres away from Devsar, the village Kaushik belongs to.

Vijender the trendsetter

“At that time, boxing became the in thing in Haryana because of Vijender. I used to watch boxers train in my village Devsar, which is about five kilometres from Bhiwani. I found it attractive and decided to take it up as a career,” recalled the strapping youngster, now a Subedar in the Indian Army.

Kaushik, the son of a farmer, said sports was never a passionate career goal for him. “It’s not that I wanted to be a sportsperson but once I started watching boxing, I liked it and decided to pursue it,” he said.

Related | Amit Panghal in final, Kaushik bags bronze

And how did his family respond to the choice? “They used to get a bit upset when they saw marks and cuts after bouts but then they made peace with it. They understood that I like what I do and became supportive. I am glad I could make them proud. I went on to become the sub-junior national champion and came into the senior camp in 2016 after I defeated Shiva in the senior national finals. That’s when it became very serious and big for me,” he recalled.

Ever since that intense final, a contest in which blood spilled, too, Kaushik and Thapa have been locked in a battle of supremacy. Kaushik defeated Thapa for a place in the Commonwealth Games squad while the latter snatched the Asian Games place from him in 2018.

Striving to get better

This year, Kaushik had the upper hand in the trials for the World Championships. “When you beat the best in your country, it obviously makes you feel more confident about yourself. I can feel that I am getting there (top form) even though I would always look to better myself,” Kaushik said.

Coming up for him is the Olympic Qualifiers in February, 2020, in China. The medal in Ekaterinburg has sealed his spot in the Indian team and Kaushik said he couldn’t have been more relieved.

“Now that I am assured of a place in the Olympic Qualifiers, I feel there is less pressure on me. I can prepare myself more confidently as I know that I don’t have to give trials. It would help me be at my best in the qualifiers and hopefully clinch a spot for Tokyo,” he said.