The veteran Indian coach believes that a change in the mindset of the younger generation has helped raise the profile of Indian boxing.
Having spent over three decades in Indian boxing, veteran coach Shiv Singh believes that the Dronacharya award (lifetime) is a worthy recognition of his contribution to the sport.
“I think it’s all about timing. It’s about waiting for your opportunity and working towards your goal till then. I am happy that it’s finally happened,” the 64-year-old coach told the Olympic Channel.
“It’s a great feeling to know that the government has recognised your contribution and did it at the right time. The sun rises early in some parts of the world and late in some parts of the world, but that doesn’t mean that the sun doesn’t rise at all.”
Having joined the national boxing set-up in the late ‘90s as an age-group coach, Shiv Singh rose through the ranks in the years that followed, eventually overseeing the senior team in some of their glorious moments.
This includes the 2018 AIBA Women's World Boxing Championships in New Delhi that saw India win a gold, a silver and two bronze medals. Earlier, at the 2017 Asian Championships in Vietnam, Indian boxers pocketed one gold, one silver and five bronze medals.
“Well, it’s a lifetime achievement. And no one can dispute this in my case. I have given all my life to the sport. And now that’s done, the government has decided to honour that commitment and hard work,” Shiv Singh said recollecting his time with the Indian team.
“Yes, if I would have received the award (Dronacharya award in regular category) during my career, it would have pushed me to work even harder towards our goals.”
Having seen the rise of Indian boxing over the past decade, the Chandigarh-based coach believes this is largely spurred by a change in mentality in the younger generation.
“I think, earlier everyone just wanted to participate in an Olympics. But after 2008, everyone wanted to win a medal,” Singh stated the reason behind the rise in quality in Indian boxing.
“It’s no longer about participating and coming back. Your Olympic journey is not a successful one until you have won a medal at the Games. That’s the shift in mentality that has helped in pushing the game ahead.
“And for us, it was about pushing the guys even further. If someone wanted to emulate Vijinder (Singh) we tell him, tum Viju se bhi aage jaoge, tumhe pata bhi nahi chalega (you will go beyond Vijender Singh and you won’t even realise).”
With as many as nine boxers already through to the Tokyo Olympics next year, Shiv Singh sounded confident of India’s chances at the Games. But the coach in him was cautious to predict their performance.
“In boxing, it’s really difficult to predict. And given the (pandemic) situation, we are less than a year to go for the Games and are still battling the virus at different stages,” Shiv Singh said.
“There’s barely information available on the boxers who will be at the Games next year. So, to say that India will win these many medals at the Games will be a bit premature.
“But, given what we have seen so far from our athletes at the international stage, if this is to remain going ahead, we have a really good chance of winning a handful of medals,” Singh signed off.
The Indian coach will be at the Sports Authority of India’s Chandigarh centre to accept his award on Saturday, in a first-ever virtual ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.