Moulding champions

Moulding champions

Moulding champions
Looking at the amount of humilty he brings into a conversation, it is hard to believe that Ganapathy Manoharan once generated fear in the minds of his opponents inside a boxing ring.

Even after contributing immensely to the sport, first as a player and then as a coach, Manoharan’s love for boxing does not seem to cease and the veteran dreams of bringing more laurels to the country in the future.

Having spent majority of his time in coaching emerging talents of the country, it was inevitable that he received the Dronacharya award. The special moment arrived last year in August and Manoharan calls it a proud chapter in his illustrious career.

“I felt very proud receiving the award. Every year I would give my best as a coach and strive hard to produce great results through my trainees. Not finding my name among the Dronacharya awardees in the past never affected my hunger for achieving my goals and I continued to do what I loved to do,” says Manoharan.

Indeed, it has been a long journey for Manoharan, who joined the Boys Sports Company in MEG at the age of 15 in 1973. After a successful career as a boxer, he took up coaching and produced great results, especially among juniors.

“I began my career as a national coach in 1987 and my first major assignment was the third SAF Games in Kolkata. We finished the event on a high with boxing accounting for 12 medals,” recollects the 56-year-old.

Indian boxers have been making their mark in major international events and Manoharan cites discipline and dedication as two key factors behind their success. Former popular pugilists such as Gopal Dewang (Arjuna Awardee, 1989) and John Williams (Olympian, 1988, Seoul) impressed him with their hard work and Manoharan calls them his all-time favourite trainees.

His unwavering hand moulded many other careers and his trainees have brought glory to their country repeatedly. In 2006, India won their first ever silver in the junior World Championship (Morocco) through Santosh Singh while Manipur’s Nanao Singh won gold in flyweight category in the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008 but more memorable was the trip to Baku in Azerbaijan for the Second Youth Amateur Boxing Wold Championship in 2010. Under him, Haryana’s Vikas Krishan won the gold and Shiva Thapa bagged silver, which proved to be a stepping stone to bigger laurels for them.

His experience as a competitor certainly stood him in good stead in his career as coach. After dominating the national stage in the late 1970s, Manoharan tasted success in the international level in the early 1980s. Along with a gold medal show in the Mini-Commonwealth Games (Brisbane, 1981) and Indo-Srilanka International boxing tournament (Colombo, 1979), Manoharan considers his quarterfinal finish in Moscow Olympic Games (1980) as his top performance.

“One of the interesting bouts in my career was the 54kg semifinal clash against a New Zealand opponent in the 1981 Mini-Commonwealth Games. I was fighting with a fractured right hand and I won the contest delivering a knockout blow to the Kiwi boxer,” recollects a nostalgic Manoharan, who won the Arjuna Award the same year.

With boxing undergoing several changes, Manoharan feels the sport has become much safer and clinical these days. “The gears used by boxers are highly reliable and made of advanced technology. The technique of boxers are fine-tuned to make them clinical in approach. Overall, the game is safe compared to earlier times.

“Even at the coaching level, many former boxers are encouraging young talent and grooming them in the best possible manner. Many coaches across the country are doing a great job in promoting the sport and my Dronacharya award is seen as an inspiration to strive harder,” says Manoharan.

Mary Kom has become the face of women’s boxing in the country now and the top coach vouches for her dedication and commitment. “During a national camp at the Kanteerava Stadium in 2005, Mary impressed me a lot with her skills and commitment. She had very high grasping power and I would see her shuttling between her room and the training ground every day, without wasting her time in any other activities.”

Manoharan feels there is a good line of talent ready to take over from the current lot. He picks Shyam Kakra (bronze, World Youth Boxing Championship) and Gaurav Solanki (fourth place finish, Youth Olympics) as future stars.

Having made a mark as junior coach, Manoharan says he is looking forward to handling the senior crop. “I want to handle the senior talents. I want to bring India two or three medals at the Olympics and I am working hard towards it,” he signs off.