Pugilists bask in media spotlight

Four years ago nobody really bothered where we were: Vijender

Pugilists bask in media spotlight

As the Indian boxing team assembled at the Westfield Stratford City for a media interaction on Friday, the buzz surrounding the event brought a quiet smile on Vijender Singh’s face.

Photographers clicked away and reporters hurried after them for a quote or two. “I feel like laughing when I see this. Four years ago, it was quite different, nobody really bothered where we were and what we were doing,” said the pin-up boy of Indian boxing.

Indeed, the last four years have seen a sea change in Indian boxing and Vijender has been mainly responsible for it. His bronze medal brought the sport into sharp focus, his success drew more youngsters into the sport and instilled them the belief that they too can make it big.

Eight boxers, including M C Mary Kom, will be fighting for India at London 2012. The hype surrounding them has been such that even their normally cool coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu was forced to step in and ask for calm.

“Please don’t talk about the medals and put unnecessary pressure on these talented youngsters. Pray to god that they perform well. Medals will automatically come if
they do well,” he said.

Vijender, competing in his third Oly­mp­ics, isn’t the only weapon in the Indian arsenal. Of the eight, Vik­as Krishan announced his arrival in the Asian Games with a gold medal and fighting in the 69kg class here, he has high hopes of a medal.

Youngsters Shiva Thapa (56kg) and Devendro Singh (49kg) too are fearless fighters and are eager to make a mark in their Olympics debut.

“This is the best Indian team ever assembled. I don’t want to pick out any individual. They have all worked hard and I am sure they will do well here,” said Vijender.

Mary Kom, the lone woman boxer in the team, has a point to prove when her discipline makes its Olympic debut. Having squeezed through the qualifying tournament, the five-time world champion has stressed that she is capable of doing better and this could well be her final chance to show her mettle on the world’s biggest sporting stage.

Meanwhile, Venky’s, one of the sponsors for the boxing team, announced a reward of Rs 50 lakh for a gold medal, Rs 25 lakh for silver and 10 lakh for bronze.

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