Shiva Thapa hopeful of more Indian boxers in Rio

"In the London Olympics there were so many boxers and Vijender Singh gave Indian boxing a face (to be proud of). I am hopeful that more boxers will qualify for the Rio Games as some qualifiers are left (to make the grade)," said Shiv Thapa.

Shiv Thapa will participate in his second Olympics after he became the youngest Indian boxer to qualify for the event in 2012.   -  R. V. Moorthy

Shiva Thapa, the lone Indian boxer to have qualified for Olympics so far, said he is hopeful that more boxers will make the cut for Rio even though only one qualifying event is left on the calendar.

“In the London Olympics there were so many boxers and Vijender Singh gave Indian boxing a face (to be proud of). I am hopeful that more boxers will qualify for the Rio Games as some qualifiers are left (to make the grade),” said the 22-year-old boxer on Monday after being felicitated by the NGO Olympic Gold Quest along with eight other Rio-bound sportspersons.

It will be the second Olympics for Thapa after he became the youngest Indian boxer to qualify for the Olympics in 2012.

“I am totally focused and working really hard (for the Olympics). The last four years have just flown and I have learnt a lot. I am looking forward to the Rio Games and I am pretty sure that we (Indian contingent) will bring more medals than in the last Olympics,” said the Guwahati-born boxer.

Thapa is sad as he had to fight in the Asian qualifiers, where he won a silver, under world body (International Boxing Association) AIBA’s flag due to the absence of an elected boxing federation in India.

“It felt sad that we were not fighting under our country’s flag. It’s very important to represent the country and fight under its flag. Now AIBA has allowed us to fight under the Indian flag in Rio and I am feeling better,” said Thapa, who aims to follow Vijender’s footsteps and turn professional.

Pistol shooter Jitu Rai, the Incheon Asian Games champion, sounded confident about Rio. His performance, this year, has been inconsistent after a great 2014 when he won both the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow) and Asian Games gold medal.

“I am happy my performance has not gone down too much. Yes it has been up and down, but that happens to even a world champion,” said Rai who is also supported by OGQ, which is co-founded by sports legends Prakash Padukone and Geet Sethi.

Rai, who clinched the gold medal in the ISSF World Cup in March, said he was happy to have taken part in the subsequent ISSF World Cup in Rio last month.

“The 10m and 50m ranges are adjacent to one another and there was a lot of disturbance. The targets were also different,” said Rai, who stood sixth in the Rio event after making the finals.

Women shooters Heena Sidhu, taking part in her second Games, was confident of putting up a good show in Rio.

“It feels like it's my first Olympics. Two months to go and we are on the right track,” said Heena, a former world no.1 in 10m air pistol.

“I am trying to better my performance. I have bought a new air rifle and a new kit and have got used to them. I did decently in Rio after not doing too well in Munich,” said Apurvi who will train in Moscow along with ace marksmen Gagan Narang and Chain Singh.

“We have converted frustration and criticism into hope. I don't want to delve into negativity regarding any selection process. Different federations have different selection processes. We (OGQ) are to support the efforts of the government and federations,” said Sethi while refusing to be drawn into the Sushil Kumar-Narsingh Yadav controversy.