Vijender Singh's 2008 Beijing Olympics bronze medal: Such changes happen only in films

“My life changed completely. I can’t explain how everything transformed,” says Vijender Singh.

Vijender Singh still gets goosebumps when remembering his achievement in Beijing.   -  AP

Vijender Singh, India’s first boxer to bag an Olympics medal at the 2008 Olympics, still gets goosebumps when remembering his achievement in Beijing.

After shooter Abhinav Bindra’s historic gold medal and wrestler Sushil Kumar’s bronze, Vijender’s podium finish in the middleweight division was the icing on the cake for the Indians who were used to returning with just one medal from the Olympics.

Vijender agrees that his experience of the 2004 Athens Olympics really helped him overcome big-stage fright four years later. “I was just 18 years old in 2004 and reaching the Olympics was an achievement in itself for me. When I saw Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore securing the silver medal and getting highlighted in the media, I thought winning a medal would be all the more special,” said Vijender, now a professional boxer.

READ | Abhinav Bindra on his 2008 Beijing Olympics gold medal: Living in the moment

Vijender went through some anxious moments due to his late qualification for the Beijing Games. But he believed in himself and relied on his patience. He won the gold medal in the qualifying event in Kazakhstan to make it to his second Olympics.

The going was not easy. “The second-round fight (against Asian Games silver medallist Angkhan Chomphuphuang of Thailand) was the most difficult one. He had beaten me a month before in Chinese Taipei and there was pressure on me,” said Vijender.

The Indian boxer beat Carlos Gongora of Ecuador to reach the semifinals and ensure a medal. “After the bout, I had no idea that I had won. Only when my hand went up I realised that I won a medal. I thanked my coaches, family and the camera that captured my achievement.

“At the Games Village, everybody was happy. Till then, nobody knew me because everybody expected Akhil (Kumar) to win a medal. Suddenly, my phone started ringing and I got a lot of attention.”

READ | Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore on his 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medal: In the zone

Vijender was treated like a hero on his return to his village Kaluwas, on the outskirts of the boxing nursery of Bhiwani in Haryana.

“It was an amazing feeling. Two or three politicians had come to welcome me. The road trip from Delhi to Bhiwani was an experience of a lifetime. I was offered the post of deputy superintendent of police and some money by the Haryana government. My life changed completely. I can’t explain how everything transformed,” he said.

“Like some of my friends said, such changes happen only in films.”

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