Indian boxer Vikas Krishan has claimed that it was fellow pugilist and close friend Neeraj Goyat that realised that he would be better off dropping back down to 69kg, urging him to revert to the category as a challenge.
Earlier in March, Vikas Krishan made the cut for the Tokyo Olympics in 69kg, the weight category where he moved down to from 75kg, becoming one of the nine Indian boxers to have qualified for the Olympics.
"It was hundred per cent (Neeraj Goyat's) idea," Vikas Krishan told The Indian Express on changing categories. "He said, 'you’ve tried everything but haven't won an Olympic medal. Try it.'”
“I was unsure whether I would be able to cut to 69kg. But he told me 'you take a lot of pride in challenging yourself. Take this as a challenge.'"
His qualification marked a return to the welterweight class in which he made his Olympic debut at the 2012 London Games, where he reached the pre-quarter-final stage.
After London 2012, Vikas Krishan stepped up to middleweight for the 2016 Rio Olympics as well, which also saw him make it as far as the quarter-final before losing out to Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev.
Now, Vikas Krishan is gearing up for Tokyo 2020, which will be his third and final Olympic foray, with the pugilist eyeing a professional career afterwards.
That's why both Vikas Krishan and Neeraj Goyat, friends since their time at the Army Sports Institute in Pune in 2006, are hopeful that the third time will be the charm.
Santiago Nieva, High Performance Director with the Boxing Federation of India, also has high hopes from Vikas Krishan at Tokyo, observing the 28-year-old to be at an 'exceptionally high level' over the last few years.
"The 69kg category suits him better as he is more powerful and can sustain the high pace," Nieva told Sportstar. "This, along with his experience as a pro boxer in the United States, makes him a strong candidate for gold."
Not an easy road for Vikas Krishnan
The road back to 69kg, however, was not without its fair share of curves. At one point, Vikas Krishan’s father, concerned about his son not eating properly, rang up Neeraj Goyat asking him to let his son stick to the 75kg category.
However, Neeraj Goyat managed to allay the elder Krishan’s concerns by assuring him that his son’s struggles will bear fruit come the Olympics.
"Look at him now. He’s looking deadly. He’s got the 75kg power and 69kg speed," Neeraj Goyat pointed out.
Having successfully qualified for the Tokyo Olympics, Vikas Krishan is now staring at over a year’s wait before getting to partake in the event, as the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has moved the Games to July 2021.
"Obviously, the postponement will affect our preparation, but I think the extra time can help me prepare even better for my goal to win an Olympic gold for India," Vikas Krishan asserted.