Amit Panghal on World No. 1 ranking and staying motivated during lockdown

No. 1 in men’s 52kg in the latest world rankings issued by AIBA was a morale booster for Amit Panghal, one of the nine Indian boxers to secure quota places for the Tokyo Olympics.

“Playing for the country is a privilege and winning medals is a reward for the years of hardships that one puts, but being No. 1 is a validation for the efforts put up by the entire system including the support staff, coaches, federation, Government and the Boxing Federation of India (BFI), says Amit Panghal.   -  Vivek Tripathi

In the depressing times of COVID-19, the biggest source of happiness for World Championships silver medallist boxer Amit Panghal was the news that he was ranked number one in men’s 52kg in the latest world rankings issued by the International Boxing Association (AIBA).

The number one ranking was a morale booster for Panghal, one of the nine Indian boxers to secure quota places for the Tokyo Olympics, as he reported at the NIS Patiala for the resumption of the national camp.

Even as he went through the compulsory quarantine phase at Patiala, Panghal took time to speak to Sportstar and looked back at the three months he spent at home. Such a long time with the family was a rare luxury for an active athlete. But Panghal — who won gold medals in 49kg in the 2018 Asian Games and in 52kg in the 2019 Asian Championships — set his priorities right as he remained sincere to his daily training, raised his voice for the farmers, relished his favourite home-cooked food and spent time with near and dear ones.

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Amid all this, Panghal, who became the first Indian male boxer to bag a silver medal in 52kg in the Yekaterinburg World Championships last year, never lost sight of his main target — the Tokyo Olympics. He did everything to keep himself in the best possible shape to stay on course of chasing his dream of winning an Olympic medal in the Japanese capital in 2021. His approach helped him look at the brighter side of the pandemic and learn important lessons in life.

Asian Games gold medallist boxer Amit Panghal got a rousing welcome at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi, in 2018.   -  PTI

 

What does the top AIBA ranking mean to you?

No doubt, it is motivating and a morale booster at the same time. It is also a lot of responsibility. Playing for the country is a privilege and winning medals is a reward for the years of hardship. Being No. 1 is a validation for the efforts put up by the entire system including the support staff, coaches, Government and the Boxing Federation of India (BFI).

How did you keep yourself motivated during the lockdown?

The biggest motivation right now is to be battle ready for the Olympics and whatever is needed in the process. I trained and kept myself fit. I used to work out twice a day and focused on increasing my stamina and power. Even though sparring was not possible, there are various other aspects that I could work upon and develop. I was in constant touch with my coaches. I followed them staying at home. My local coach, who I used to train with in my early days, was also there to help me. I watched videos of some of the boxers who I have not played in the past and may have a face-off with. So, basically I kept myself busy and of course staying home, spending time with family was enough motivation.

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Do you think spending such a long time with family can be therapeutic for an athlete?

We are usually away from home for a long time due to training and tournaments. Spending so much time at home after a long gap was surely therapeutic and I am now raring to start my training.

Amit Panghal bagged a silver medal in 52kg in the Yekaterinburg World Championships last year.   -  PTI

 

What made you voice your concern about the farming distress?

I come from a farming background but due to tournaments and camps I did not get time to be at home but during the lockdown I not only stayed at home but also helped my family during the harvest. I came to know of the plight of my fellow villagers. I felt it as my moral responsibility to talk about their condition.

I also spent time with my nephews and nieces and ate my favourite food cooked by my mom. I spent a lot of time with my dada watching movies. It was indeed a very fulfilling time.

Did you ever think that you might forget boxing or lose your touch even though you did some individual training at home?

That thought never crossed my mind as there was no let down in intensity on my part during the lockdown. Moreover, the training programmes devised were customised and addressed my needs. These are difficult times but I am not the only one going through such times. So, being patient and calm yet focused helped set the priorities right. Here I am at the camp now getting ready to resume my training after the quarantine period.

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How difficult is it for you to mentally adjust when a big target like the Olympics gets shifted for a year? Even today, there is doubt whether it can be held next year…

These are unprecedented times and the whole world is fighting the coronavirus. So, it is the same for everyone across the world. The key is to stay safe and positive and take it as an opportunity to further improve and work on the game and on individual skills. It is also an opportunity and a year more of focused preparation.

After the resumption of the national camp, how much time do you need to get back to full form and rhythm?

Since I am not out of touch and was training daily during the lockdown twice a day, getting back to active training won’t be difficult. But we need to take one day at a time and not rush. Given the current circumstances, with close contact and sparring not possible, working out under the watchful eyes of the coaches and also taking care of our mental well being will be important. At this juncture, along with resuming the training process, discussion on various topics with fellow players as well coaches will be something that I will be looking forward to.

Amit Panghal and his coaches cannot hide their joy after the boxer qualified for his maiden Olympics.   -  PTI

 

Which areas of your game you need to  improve upon in the run up to the Olympics?

For an event like the Olympics, each and every aspect of your game should be better than the best and my aim will not be anything different.

I have worked a lot on my strength, power and stamina over the past few months and will continue to do so along with enhanced ring skills.

Do you feel secure that you have qualified for the Olympics and there is no uncertainty around that?

Absolutely. In this chaos, having the certainty (of winning a quota place in the Olympics) gives you a lot of confidence as well as assurance. It helps me to only focus on the preparations and think how best I can prepare myself.

What is the best thing you have learnt during the lockdown?

Patience. When things are not in your hand, you can only give your best under the circumstances and not be edgy for results. Doing what you need to and being calm is something that I have personally felt has worked really well for me in the last three months.