India packs a punch in Beijing

One aspect of India at Beijing that caught everyone's imagination was the extraordinary journey of the Indian boxers.

updated: August 30, 2008 08:54 IST
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One aspect of India at Beijing that caught everyone's imagination was the extraordinary journey of the Indian boxers. No one really believed India could win a boxing medal. Most believed that the others were just too strong and we just weren't quick enough.

But five men from India broke that stereotype and shamed all those who didn't back them. Today, India can boast of a boxing program that has already started producing champions and will continue to do so in the future

Vijender Kumar created history by winning India's first Olympic boxing medal but he knows that his medal is as much his as that of his four teammates and they've all beaten some odds to get here.

"When we used to say we're going to win a medal at the Olympics, people used to snigger and say, you may win at the sub junior, at the junior, but not in the senior men's, not at the Olympics," said Col Raja, Gen Secretary of Indian Amateur Boxing Federation.

All those naysayers would have had to eat their words as Vijender secured his bronze with this win last Wednesday. It was a culmination of the efforts of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation and the entire support staff as well.

"15 to 16 countries now want us to train or want to train with us. We're known names now, I'm walking and some says, 'Hey, Sandhu'. We're now on the world stage. Lots of countries Australia, Germany, want to train..." said Gurbux Singh Sandhu, Indian boxing team's coach.

The Indian boxing team produced some inspiring results, whether it was this shock win for Akhil Kumar or the fact that the unfancied team had three boxers in the quarters. A testament to the methods of the Indian boxing team where even the athletes themselves have a say in how they train.

"This has helped improve India's level of boxing. Now, even the international boxers will look at Indian boxers and fear them," India's bronze medallist Vijender Kumar said.

And why not, there are facilities at the National Institute of Sport in Patiala that have helped put Jitender and his teammates on the map. India's Cuban coach Blas Fernandez has also been a major factor in helping this team excel. And a lot of the motivation for the team has come from within.

"Akhil was the reason. Akhil defeated the world number 3, then he beat the world number one, from that we got a lot of confidence and we believed that we could do it and that was the inspiration," Jitender Kumar, the flyweight quarterfinalist, said.

With the boxers having outdone themselves, there's a true belief that London 2012 will bring more glory. But the good work of the last four years must continue for the next four.

"The hard work starts now. We have to do some very, very good hard analysis about what was successful here and make that the core of our program. We have a huge, huge event coming up in the next 24 months in India, and there we have to show the world that we're here to stay and we're to compete," said a very upbeat boxing team's physio, Heath Matthews.

And surely no one will doubt that, especially given this moment.