Boxing High Performance Director Santiago Nieva feels more Indians will qualify for Tokyo 2020

Nieva feels that the European trip the contingent undertook earlier this year was very useful

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

The Indan boxing contingent is preparing for the Tokyo Olympics at the Indian Institute of Sports in Bellary. Nine Indian boxers have already qualified for the finals and High Performance Director Santiago Nieva hopes that the number will only increase in the following months.

"We want more boxers to qualify," Nieva told ESPN. "We also know that we have to raise our level. We have already maintained a certain level in our training. Now we have to build on that." he added.

Indian boxers travelled to Italy in October 2020 for a training stint and also participated in the Cologne World Cup where they bagged three gold medals. He feels that the European trip was the best thing that could have happened as it not only provided them with competitive minutes but also gave them a tailor-made routine to follow in the months leading up to the Olympics.

"It was critical that we were able to go abroad. In the beginning (when the boxers were unable to train), there was not much concern because they needed a little break. We were not worried. But once the Olympics got postponed, the situation became worse. After two months of not being able to train, it gets very hard to get back in shape. There is no other Asian country that could go to Europe. That was very important for us. This will have an effect on our performance in Tokyo."

London 2012 bronze medallist MC Mary Kom is recovering from dengue and will not travel to Italy for training.

Due to the pandemic, several qualification events were cancelled which included the European Olympic qualifiers. But since, the Asia-Oceania qualifiers were completed India is in a much better position.

"It makes things a little easier for us. If we had done badly there, we would have felt a different kind of pressure. It gave us some confidence that we have qualified a good number of boxers. We don't have to panic but we can't relax. It gives us the security that otherwise, it would have been tough. Other colleagues abroad have (been) facing pressure."

Nieva hopes that the team will be able to travel to Europe once again for advanced training before they take the flight to Tokyo.

"Now that we know what is possible, we understand that we can do the first part of our preparation in India and then travel abroad for training and competition. I've already scheduled competitions in Bulgaria and Austria over the next couple of months. Even if there are problems with that, we are looking to bring in teams to train in India. Hopefully, things will clear up internationally over the next few months," he revealed.

India is set to participate in Bulgaria's Strandja Memorial tournament will be held from February 21 to 28 in Sofia.