Nine medals, a step towards greater glory

BFI president Ajay Singh says the pugilists may be sent to Michael Johnson Academy in the USA for a 20-day fitness training programme later this year.

From left: MC Mary Kom, Vikas Krishan and Gaurav Solanki at the felicitation ceremony in New Delhi on Tuesday.   -  Sandeep Saxena

 

They exceeded their own expectations by returning with nine medals at the 2018 Commonwealth Games but the Boxing Federation of India only considers this as the first step towards greater glory at tougher competitions.

The Indian boxers were felicitated here on Tuesday, hours after they returned from Gold Coast. And though the ones most in demand were veterans MC Mary Kom and Vikas Krishan Yadav, those at the other end — youngsters Naman Tanwar, Gaurav Solanki and Amit Panghal — stood out with their composure.

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Tanwar, who won only a bronze and attracted maximum eyeballs with his hands-down stance, was not just the baby of the squad at 19 but also the newest candidate to the sport, having started only four years back as a way to lose weight and get fit. That, however, didn't stop him from ignoring traditional advice to protect himself while in the ring.

“I feel comfortable with the open stance. I follow anyone who has an open guard, including Akhil Kumar. I often speak to him but he only has one advice — work on your game, improve on it but never ever change your natural game for anyone, regardless of who says what,” Tanwar said. And winning a medal at 19? “It's nothing special, people have done it at 16 also. It's all about self-belief,” he shrugged.

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He might represent a new generation of Indians, one that isn't awed by the opposition or the occasion, but the pain of struggle finally came out. “The generation has changed but people in the federation have also changed, and changed for good. At this level, all bouts are close but the selection committees always preferred a senior boxer. How will youngsters get experience if you don't give them a chance at major events? It is very difficult in the beginning. Last year was a lot of struggle but I managed to beat more experienced rivals to reach here,” he said.

“Someone who participated in 2008 Olympics still gets preference and why? Because he represented India 10 years ago. That is not right, youth must be given chance. It is good that the federation is doing it now and that is why youngsters are performing well. It helps increase self-confidence and give us valuable experience,” he further added.

Interestingly Mary, who won her maiden CWG gold, insisted there were no plans to retire and was looking at 2020, if the body permits. “Age is not a factor and I can assure you, anyone who wants to replace me will have to fight for it, it won't be easy,” she remarked.

BFI president Ajay Singh promised the pugilists would get every support possible in the coming days. “The competition will be much tougher at the Asian Games. The men and women would be going to Serbia next week and we are also planning to send them to Michael Johnson Academy in the USA for a 20-day fitness training programme later,” Singh said.