On Sunday, Indian boxer Ashish Kumar achieved a dream he spent the better part of two decades striving toward.
Having made it past the preliminaries of the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers, the Himachal Pradesh lad had everything riding on the line as he headed into the quarter-final on Sunday. A win would see him head to his first-ever Olympic Games.
Fighting with confidence and dexterity, Ashish Kumar convincingly defeated Maikhel Muskita by unanimous decision to punch his Tokyo 2020 ticket.
Winning after a loss
As he began his exclusive post-match interview with the Olympic Channel, one of the first thoughts that came to his mind was something that had been weighing him down during the run-up to the qualifiers.
“The important thing is whatever I have done till now, I want to dedicate to my late father because on this day, a month ago, he died.”
"He had this wish that he wanted to see me play in the Olympics, so what I have done is just to make his wish come true,” he said.
Why Ashish Kumar never looked back
Like any successful sportsman, Ashish Kumar too paid his dues to get toward the top.
When chipping away at a dream for the better part of two decades, frustration and questions about where it was all going were bound to creep in.
“I have been sacrificing a lot for boxing since I was 13-14 years old. Sometimes, I felt like giving up but there was something which kept pushing me,” said Ashish Kumar,
That something was his support system, made up of a family full of boxers and wrestlers.
As he explained, “My father always supported me and so did my brothers and my entire family. They told me never to look back and they motivated me at every step.”
“I believe my family has always stood by me and I would not have been here if it was not for them.”
Kin and country
Having obviously given his family reason to swell with pride thus far, what’s next for Ashish Kumar?
“I want to win a medal in the 2020 Olympics. I want to make my country proud,” said the 24-year-old with a twinkle of excitement in his eye.
Before that though comes the chance to test himself against the talented Filipino Eumir Marcial in the semi-finals of the qualifying competition.
The pair will meet on Tuesday 10th March.
When and where to watch the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers
You can follow all the action from the Asia/Oceania Olympic Qualification live exclusively on the Olympic Channel. The morning session will begin at 2:30 PM IST while the evening session is scheduled for 8:30 PM IST.
You can also follow the daily live blog in both English and Hindi on the Olympic Channel.