Vikas, Manoj qualify for Olympics

Manoj, also a former Asian Championships bronze-medallist, had competed in the 2012 London Games as well and had lost in the quarterfinals.

Manoj thrashed Tajikistan's Rakhimov Shavkatdzhon in the quarterfinal 3-0.   -  PTI

Former World championship medallist Vikas Krishan (75kg) and former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Manoj Kumar Kaltagdia (64kg), on Thursday, recorded wins to reach the semifinals of the Olympic World qualification event in Baku, Azerbaijan, and book berths for the Rio Olympics.

Sumit Sangwan (81kg) missed out on a spot in the Rio Olympics after losing to top seed Russian Petr Khamukov 0-3 in the quarterfinals. However, Sangwan can qualify if Khamukov goes on to win the 81kg gold medal.

The success of Vikas and Manoj has taken India’s total number of Olympic quota places in boxing to three. Shiva Thapa (56kg) had earlier qualified for the Rio Games.

READ: >Vijender out of Olympic contention, wishes best for Vikas

Manoj, who defeated Shavkatdzhon Rakhimov of Tajikistan 3-0 in the quarterfinals, deserved a special mention as the underrated boxer earned his second consecutive Olympic quota place despite the lack of any sponsorship.

Prior to leaving for the event, Manoj, known for his rock-solid determination and bullish approach, had promised his elder brother-cum-coach Rajesh that he would return with an Olympic quota place. “I had to prove myself and I am happy that I did that. I am determined to do well in the Olympics as well,” an emotional Manoj told Sportstar from Baku.

“It was a very tough journey for me but Rajesh was solidly behind me. I am a Maratha and never feared of any consequences. Every time I entered the ring I just prayed to God without thinking about the result,” added Manoj, 29, the only top boxer who was not included in the Sports Ministry-backed Target Olympic Podium (TOP) Scheme.

Vikas, who had lost in a controversial bout in the London Olympics, was also relieved after taming South Korean Lee Dongyun in the quarters and ensuring his second Olympics appearance on the trot.

Vikas, a former Asian Games gold medallist, was desperate to qualify for the Olympics and had made an effort to get through to the mega event by taking the professional route through the AIBA Pro Boxing.

“I am extremely delighted to have secured the Olympic quota. It has been a long journey with quite a few ups and downs. I was confident about my abilities and always believed that I had what it took to reach the Olympics and put up a strong performance on that stage,” said the JSW-backed Vikas.

Vikas, who had a very tough bout against Japanese Takahashi Makoto in the second round, said, “I wasn’t very well when I took on the Japanese but after getting that win, I knew I could clinch the quota. It was important to put everything on the line, not hold anything back but at the same time fight in an intelligent manner,” added the 24-year-old.

National chief coach G. S. Sandhu said qualification of these boxers would spur Indian boxing again. “The boys put up really top class shows. We went through a tough period (due to the absence of a National federation), but this should boost boxing again,” he said.

L. Devendro Singh (49kg) is also in contention for berth in the Olympics.