Vijender reflects on glorious feat

Vijender Singh

On August 22, 2008, Vijender Singh did just that when he lost his semifinal bout at the Beijing Olympics, but the bronze medal he settled for was the first any Indian boxer had managed in the world’s biggest sporting event.

He completes a ‘life-changing’ year since that feat on Saturday, but Vijender says it is just like yesterday for him.

“It’s amazing, a year has passed since I won the Olympic medal and what a year it has been! I still remember the days in Beijing very clearly, it’s just like yesterday. Winning the Olympic bronze medal was the start of a new life for me. Everything changed after that medal,” the 23-year-old middleweight (75kg) said.

“It would have been nice to have won and ensured that India’s first Olympic medal in boxing was gold,” the Khel Ratna awardee added.

“But I am proud of what I achieved and the fact that it made such a difference to Indian boxing gives me immense happiness.”

The road to the Olympics was a bumpy one for Vijender as he had failed to qualify for the event on his first two attempts and was battling a nagging back problem going into the third and final qualifying tournament.

Vijender’s last shot at Oly-mpic qualification was at the second Asian Qualifiers in Ka-zakhstan. Perhaps marking a start of the good times that followed, Vijender didn’t just qualify, he won gold.

A couple of months before leaving for Beijing, he pulled off one of the biggest wins of his career by beating Athens Oly-mpics gold medallist Bakhteyar Artayev in the President’s Cup to clinch India’s maiden medal – a bronze – in the tournament.

Before heading to Beijing, Vijender said he was confident but didn’t want to make any tall claims.

“I wanted to prove it in the ring. I am happy that not just me but all the five boxers who went to Beijing made their mark. Beijing gave me memories I will cherish my whole life,” he said.

Once there, Vijender created such a buzz that even former world heavyweight champion Evander Holyfield sat through his bouts and came looking for him after his semifinal loss.
“That’s what you live for as a sportsperson... to get acclaimed by such greats,” he said.
The day before the semifinal, he had picked up a calf muscle injury and the after-effects of a grueling first-round bout, in which he hurt his knee and collar bone, were still showing.

“There were injuries but I have never cited them as an excuse for my loss. I am happy with the performance I put in. Let’s give credit to the guy who won,” Vijender said.
The strapping six-footer lost to Cuba’s Emilio Correa Bayeux, now the world number one.

“There is no shame in losing if you know that you have given your best, and I know I gave my 100 percent. Having gotten over the initial hurt, the defeat doesn’t rankle me anymore,” he said.

PTI

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