Backroom boys in the spotlight

Support staffs contribution has been vital to pugilists success

Even as Indian boxers bask in the limelight, equally delighted is the support staff led by chief coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu. The support team is often overshadowed by the stars they help to develop but the equation could be different this time.

Over the years, Cuba's Blas Iglesias Fernandez, Jaidev Bisht, Ramanand and CA Kuttappa have worked tirelessly behind the scenes to bring out the best in the country's boxers.

Fernandez, who has been associated with the Indian boxers for over a decade, treats India home away from home. He has been associated with the team from the time Indian boxers were yet to make a mark even in Asia.

 “The improvement has been steady. There was a time when Indian boxers used to come last even in Asia, so it is very satisfying to see so many of them make it to Olympics,” Fernandez said. “The biggest thing is that all of them have qualified for Olympics. They are not going there only because of luck.”

 The Cuban, though, added, “But mind you, we are still not the best. We have improved a lot but we still have to go some distance.”

 Fernandez prefers to avoid the medal talk, but he nevertheless said, “We do have a medal chance. The boys are very confident and excited. We have a young, fearless contingent and they are raring to go. In fact, we have to temper their excitement.  Sometime a young enthusiastic boxer enters a ring but blanks out during the competition.”

Bisht said there was as much pressure on the coaches as on the boxers. “Olympics is a big event which comes with a lot of pressure. So, it’s same for everybody but coaches have to rise above it to support the player. This time we are far better prepared than last time. In Beijing we lost the bouts by close margins. So we have studied those bouts not only to see the mistakes of the boxers but also where we lacked as coaches,” Bisht said.
 With the new scoring system prompting players to be aggressive, Indian boxers have been made to practice “combination punches.”  Bisht observed, “You cannot afford to be too defensive. You have to go for the punches.”

Physio Harishankar Varma said the team was fit and focussing on speed and footwork. “Also we are working on strengthening their back and hamstrings.” 

Lauding the contribution of the support staff, IABF secretary, Col PK Muralidharan Raja said, “Every member has played a tremendous role in the growth of boxing. Fernandez specially is the man behind the entire training schedule of the team. Without the support staff we would not have been able to achieve so much.”

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