Coaches believe Indian boxers' preparations for Tokyo on track

Most of India’s elite boxers are at a training camp in Europe and will participate in the Chemistry Cup in Germany from December 15.

By Utathya Nag ·

High-performance director Santiago Nieva and women's chief coach Raffaele Bergamasco are confident that Indian boxers are well on track with their preparations for the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.

Nine Indian pugilists - Amit Panghal, Vikas Krishan, Satish Kumar, Manish Kaushik, Ashish Kumar, MC Mary Kom, Lovlina Borgohain, Simranjit Kaur and Pooja Rani - have already qualified for the Summer Games in Japan next year. Four more spots - three men's and one women's - will be up for grabs at the Olympic qualifiers in 2021.

Most of India's elite boxers, qualified ones and Tokyo hopefuls, are in a training camp in Italy’s Olympic Centre in Assisi.

As part of the international exposure camp, the Indian boxers competed at the Alexis Vastine international boxing tournament in Nantes, France, in October and won three golds, one silver and three bronze medals.

The group will also take part at the Chemistry Cup in Germany from December 15, which will be the last leg in an over two-month European tour.

“We were not 100 per cent in Alexis Vastine, but were definitely better than other teams - not even France and the USA were able to match us,” Santiago Nieva told the Hindustan Times. “That is a positive sign. We still have some way to go, but this is the same for the rest of the world.”

After the lockdown in March, Indian boxers resumed training in Patiala in August before flying to Europe on October 16.

With the COVID-19 situation affecting the global sporting schedule, the Alexis Vastine tournament was the first competitive event for the Indian boxers in over eight months.

Nieva reckoned regular training and competitions have helped the Indian boxers progress and had put them in good stead for the Olympic qualifiers.

Improvements all around

Raffaele Bergamasco echoed Nieva's thoughts on the matter.

“Such a long period of inactivity will have some effect on athletes globally in their preparation,” Bergamasco pointed out. “The Indian team is having a good start and our strong point is that we have qualified for the Olympics in most categories.”

Bergamasco also judged that the Indian boxers are currently at 75 per cent of their optimum form and added that the training sessions have helped considerably to get them back in shape after the lockdown.

“We had sparring sessions with the host team (Italy) and also with Ireland,” Bergamasco said. “The good thing is we have been invited by many European and African countries along with the USA for joint training and dual matches. This will definitely help our boxers.”

Among the Tokyo qualified boxers, Vikas Krishan, who is training in the US, and Manish Kaushik, currently recovering from an injury, are not with the group.

Mary Kom, too, opted out due to COVID concerns while Lovlina Borgohain missed the trip after contracting coronavirus. The two are training in India.