Shiva Thapa: The only thing on my mind is Rio Olympics

"Under the new scoring system, you need to be very aggressive, the punches have to be aggressive and strong. The judges are more impressed if you land more punches, fight aggressively and not bank on just counter-punching," says Shiva Thapa, who is all geared up for the Rio Olympics.

Shiva Thapa became the youngest Indian to take part in Olympics, when made his debut in the London Games four years ago.   -  Arunangsu Roy Chowdhrury

Bantamweight boxer Shiva Thapa, who is set to make a second consecutive appearance in Olympics, opened up about the difficulties he had faced on the road to Rio. The 22-year-old is the only Indian pugilist to have qualified for the 2016 Games, at a time when the nation's boxing decisions are taken by an ad-hoc committee.

The world body, AIBA, disaffiliated India following internal differences between administrators, which in turn affected the participation of Indian boxers in international competitions. Thapa overcame these adverse circumstances to secure a berth for the Rio Games.

Shiva was among the nine internationals felicitated yesterday > at an event organised by the OGQ.

Excerpts from a chat with the boxer, whose career has remained on track with the support of the Olympic Gold Quest (OGQ):

Question: London 2012 saw you make your Olympic debut at 18, the youngest Indian to qualify. Can you describe the experience?

Answer: I got a lot of experience from that. I always dreamt of competing in the Olympics and winning a gold medal. So qualification for the first time was a big thing for me then, at just 18. I lost in the first round to a Mexican. Apart from the boxing part, being in the Games Village was exciting. I met two champions I admire, Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps.

Was it a relief to qualify for the second consecutive Olympics? You have another chance to live your dream.

I qualified for the Olympics through the Asian Qualifiers. My focus was on the World Championships where I had won the bronze medal (in October last year). I worked hard in training to ensure a good performance in the next qualifying event… the Asian Qualifiers. It is a huge relief.

You broke down in London after losing your bout. What did you learn on your Olympics debut?

Losing in the first round was a big shock. My family supported me a lot during tough times; my coaches helped me recover after that defeat. I remember my dad motivating me by saying that qualifying at 18 is a big thing. He told me to learn from failures and prepare well for the next time.

Indian boxers had to deal with problems away from the ring. AIBA suspension of the Indian federation... How did you deal with the distractions?

I am positive, and the only thing on my mind is the Rio Olympics. Since the London Olympics, things have been different. We athletes hope that the problems would be solved in time. It would have been much better if that happened, the boxers would have got a chance to participate in more competitions abroad.

People have mentioned about your focus on aggression in the buildup to Rio...

Under the new scoring system, you need to be very aggressive, the punches have to be aggressive and strong. The judges are more impressed if you land more punches, fight aggressively and not bank on just counter-punching. The punches should land on the target in a very aggressive manner.

From now on until Rio, how do you plan to prepare?

I am looking to train abroad before the Olympics. We recently trained in Kazakhstan, took part in the World Championships followed by the SAFF Games. There was a tournament in China and then the Asian Qualifying tournament. The Indian boxers had a three-week training camp in Dublin. The Sports Ministry and the SAI deserve our thanks. The TOP (Target Olympic Podium) scheme has been helpful for me in terms of foreign tours.

Your advice to athletes who have qualified for Rio and are competing for the first time in the Olympics?

Experience matters and one should not put too much pressure on himself or herself. Everyone is under pressure so the need is to focus on your game, your training and forget the rest.