Bhiwani-born Manish Kaushik hopes to emulate hero Vijender Singh

The 24-year-old took a slightly longer route to an Olympic berth but now that he has it, he wants to end on the podium ala Vijender Singh.

By Rahul Venkat ·

In August 2008, Vijender Singh made his travel from Bhiwani to Beijing memorable when he became the first Indian boxer to step up to an Olympic podium, winning a historic bronze.

In the same little Haryana village almost 4,000kms away, a 12-year-old Manish Kaushik was watching his inspiration with rapt attention and hoped to achieve the same feat one day.

He created an opportunity to do just that 12 years later.

“I watched Vijender win the bronze at Beijing in 2008 and the fact that he also came from Bhiwani instantly made him a hero in my eyes. Obviously, winning an Olympic medal became an immediate goal for me,” he told the Olympic Channel in an exclusive chat.

At the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers in Amman, Jordan, Manish Kaushik joined eight other Indian boxers to book their berths for the Tokyo Olympics.

Manish Kaushik won a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games before clinching a bronze at the 2019 World Championships.

Giant-killer Manish Kaushik

The 24-year-old Indian boxer is only four years into his senior career and self-confidence is something he thrives on. In 2016, he beat London 2012 Olympian Shiva Thapa to win the senior national title.

Two years later, Manish Kaushik got the better of him once again to grab the spot for the Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast. Beating a veteran like Shiva Thapa once was good but to do it twice meant people really started to take notice.

Kaushik credits his mentors for their help in masterminding the triumphs.

“I had great coaches in the Indian Army who analysed Shiva Thapa’s game and told me how to approach it,” he explained. The Bhiwani lad returned from Gold Coast with a silver medal around his neck, an accolade he describes as his favourite win.

His confidence skyrocketed after the tournament and he enjoyed a stellar run at the World Championships in Yekaterinburg last year, winning a bronze in the lightweight category.

At Amman, Manish Kaushik had fallen to Chinzorig Baatarsukh in the quarter-finals but had another chance to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics through a box-off against familiar foe Harry Garside.

The Indian boxer had lost to the Australian in the Commonwealth Games final but got the better of him this time around and the victory had an interesting backstory to it.

“The Australians had come down to India for a camp a few months before the Asian qualifiers and I had sparred with Harry Garside then. It gave me good practice and that’s how I was able to beat him to the Tokyo Olympics,” he revealed.

Watch: Manish Kaushik edges Harry Garside in box-off thriller

Indian lightweight Manish Kaushik successfully secured his place at Tokyo 2...

Delayed debut not an issue

The COVID-19 pandemic forced the International Olympic Committee (IOC) to postpone the Tokyo Olympics by a year and while it may affect the plans of some, Manish Kaushik is unfazed.

“It is what it is,” he noted. “You cannot do much about the situation, so I choose to look at it as a chance to prepare better for the Games.”

The Indian boxer is doing some basic exercises at home and does some occasional sparring with other family members to stay fit while also attending the Boxing Federation of India (BFI)’s online training sessions.

However, he is already looking forward to getting back to the national training camp which had to be called off due to the lockdown.

Vijender Singh made Bhiwani proud and going by Manish Kaushik’s determination, he looks all set to embellish that legacy a decade later.