Shiva Thapa: ‘I am very confident of qualifying for the Olympics’

"Technically the Indian boxers are very sound and well equipped to take on anyone. I believe we just need more exposure and be mentally strong to succeed at the highest level," Shiva Thapa tells in this e-mail chat.

Shiva Thapa (red) fights Dzmitry Asanau in the semi-final of the Men's Bantam Weight during the AIBA World Boxing Championships Doha 2015 at the Ali Bin Hamad Al-Attiya Arena on October 14, 2015. Thapa lost the bout and lost this chance to qualify for the Rio Olympics.   -  GETTY IMAGES

Shiva Thapa won a bronze medal in the 56 kg category at the World Championships in Doha in October. He, however, rues his defeat to Dzmitry Asanau of Uzbekistan, a loss that also meant that Thapa, who is now ranked World No. 2 in the bantamweight category of the AIBA rankings, failed to secure a berth for the Olympics in Rio next year. But a fighter that he is, Thapa is confident of making it to Rio and is all geared up to do well in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers early next year.“

The medal at the World Championships has given me a lot of satisfaction and has made me more determined to qualify and win a gold medal at the next Olympics and the World Championships,” he says in an e-mail chat.

Excerpts:

Question: You won a bronze medal at the World Championships in Doha recently. It was a commendable effort no doubt, but you failed to secure a berth for the Rio Olympics?

Answer: Winning the bronze medal at the World Boxing Championships was a proud moment for me; it’s my biggest achievement till date, only two other Indians have done it before. However, I was very disappointed on not winning an Olympic berth as I thought I had worked very hard for this tournament and stood a good chance against the Uzbeki boxer, Dzmitry Asanau, whom I lost to in the semi-finals.

I was gutted after losing to Asanau. However, considering that we have not been getting enough exposure for the last year and a half, I believe the entire Indian team put in a great effort and impressed every one.

Had I won my semi-final bout, I would have been assured of an Olympic berth, but now, I will have to wait for another opportunity to qualify.

So, what happens next? Are you confident of qualifying for the Rio Olympics?

Since Michael Conlan has qualified for the Rio Olympics through both the World Series Boxing and the AIBA World Championships, he will have to decide on which route to take. If he takes the WSB route, then I will automatically qualify, or else I have the Asian Olympic Qualifiers early next year. Besides, if any WSB franchise picks me, and I do well there, then I have a chance. I am very confident of qualifying for the Olympics and doing well.

Finishing — in any sport — has been a big problem with Indian sportspersons. In major events, such as the Olympics and the World Championships, we have seen quite a few of our boxers start off well but falter in the final few bouts that really matter. Is it all in the mind, or is it plainly a matter of technique?

Technically the Indian boxers are very sound and well equipped to take on anyone. The difference between the boxers at the highest level is not much. One needs to be well prepared and make a proper strategy for each match, and our coaches are also doing a great job. I believe we just need more exposure and be mentally strong to succeed at the highest level.

What kind of training do you undergo to bolster your mental strength, and also hone your technique?

I do a lot of meditation to keep myself mentally strong. I also learn new techniques and keep practising them a thousand times a day.

On a given day, what is your training schedule like?

Since we are in the National Camp throughout the year at the NIS, Patiala, we have a training session in the morning with the coaches and then another session in the evening. The key to good training is to have good sparring partners, and that is something that is lacking.

What in your opinion is your strong point in the ring?

According to me, my strongest point in the ring is my speed, the flexibility to change the style of my game and my discipline towards the rules and regulations of the sport.

And your weakness?

My biggest weakness is… em… let me know if you find one.

Though your father was a karate instructor, how did you and your brother take up boxing?

My father has been the biggest inspiration in my life and he wanted one of his children to become a sportsperson. Both my brother and I were introduced to contact sports at a very early age by our father and this made us fall in love with the sport of boxing.

How has your journey as a boxer been so far?

My journey has been tough as I come from a very humble background. But my father ensured that he did his best to meet my expenses in my early years. Boxing is tough, where injuries are a part and parcel of the sport, and one needs to take things in his stride. I have tasted some success over the last few years but I still have a long way to go. I am thankful to the Ministry of Sports, Government of India, the State Government of Assam, the Federation, coaches and my team-mates along with my sponsor Anglian Medal Hunt and to all the people of the country for their support.

What are the difficulties a boxer in India faces with regard to competitions, training facilities, diet etc.?

One of the biggest problems we faced over the last few years is the ban on the Indian Boxing Federation. Due to this, we have not been getting any invitations from other countries and almost for the last two years, we have been training in Patiala. We are not getting the kind of exposure that we need. The training facilities at the NIS, Patiala, are good but there are other things required as well. Earlier, before every major tournament, we used to have an exposure trip which used to help us in our preparations, but this has not been happening. In spite of all this, the Indian boxers are still doing well at the international level, which is a testimony to the hard work put in by our coaches and the support staff.

You are seen as one of the most talented boxers in the country. Do you think you have lived up to that reputation so far in your career?

Winning and losing is a part of sport. I am happy with my performances but I believe my results could have been much better. The medal at the World Championships has given me a lot of satisfaction and has made me more determined to qualify and win a gold medal at the next Olympics and the World Championships.