Indian boxers, coaches upbeat about their chances

By Alkesh Sharma, IANS,

Patiala : Vijender Singh’s bronze medal and Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar making the quarter-finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics has spurred the Indian pugilists to aspire for bigger things at the Oct 3-14 Commonwealth Games.

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After tasting uprecedented success at the Olympics, India have won a number of medals at various international tournaments. Expectedly, the boxers and coaches are confident of a good showing in the New Delhi Games where 40 medals, including 10 golds, are at stake in the ring.

At the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, India won one gold (Akhil), two silvers (Vijender, Harpreet Singh) and two bronzes (Jitender, Varghese Johnson) medals.

“We are strong contenders and we hope to win a medal in all the weight categories, with at least three to four gold medals,” Akhil told IANS.

Akhil, who won the gold in Melbourne in 54 kg, said the boxers are motivated to go for gold.

“I want to win another gold medal for my country in the Commonwealth Games. Despite some injuries and viral flu, I am practising hard to fulfill the aim,” said Akhil, who is training at the National Institute of Sports (NIS) here along with the squad.

Ten boxers were selected from the 44 probables in the trials at the NIS Aug 26-28. The camp, at the newly renovated boxing hall, will conclude Wednesday.

Vijender concurred with Akhil’s assessment, saying they are eyeing a handful of medals in New Delhi.

“We are happy with our preparation and the facilities and expert coaching provided to us,” Vijender, the favourite to win gold, told IANS.

“I am very enthusiastic about the Commonwealth Games. I am expecting a tough competition. I have put in a lot of effort in training and tried to overcome my shortcomings. I watched the old videos of my bouts and practice sessions.”

“Everything is in place and we are just waiting for the start of the Games,” said Vijender, who is also the brand ambassador for the Games.

Coaches are also upbeat about India’s chances.

“We have a balanced squad. I am satisfied with the way we went about the preparations. We undoubtedly have some of the best boxers and our chances are very good,” chief coach G.S. Sandhu told IANS.

“The boys are following a strenous training schedule for the last few weeks. We have drafted a special diet chart and training regime, depending upon the individual requirements. Now, the focus is on maintaining the tempo.” he said.

Cuban coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez said India will face tough competition in some of the categories, but they will have the home advantage.

“We will face tough challenge from Australia, England and Africa, but I am hopeful of winning two to three gold medals. All the 10 boxers are very talented and I hope home conditions will enhance their prospects.”

Asian champion Suranjoy Singh (52 kg) feels the exposure in the past one year has done a world of good for Indian boxers.

“Besides the Indian coaches, our foreign coach Fernandez sir has been of big help. He has vast international exposure. My only aim is to win gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.”

The Squad: Amandeep Singh (49 kg), Suranjoy Singh (52 kg), Akhil Kumar (56 kg), Jai Bhagawan (60 kg), Manoj Kumar (64 kg), Dilbagh Singh (69 kg), Vijender Singh (75 kg), Dinesh Kumar (81 kg), Manpreet Singh (91 kg), Paramjit Samota (91 kg).