The Beijing 2008 Olympics proved to be a watershed moment for India with their star pugilist Vijender Singh picking up the country’s first-ever Olympic medal in boxing.
That paved the way for MC Mary Kom in the London 2012 Games, which further unlocked the boxing potential in the country as seen in the recent likes of Amit Panghal and Manish Kaushik, both of whom won medals at the 2019 AIBA World Boxing Championships.
The man, who started off India’s boxing ascent more than a decade ago, revealed an interesting anecdote earlier this week, about a dressing room conversation during the Beijing Games that he had had with his then coach GS Sandhu.
Flashback to the 2008 Beijing Games, when Vijender’s coach GS Sandhu entered the changing room looking anxious and urging his pugilists not to return empty-handed from the sporting extravaganza.
"We were in the changing room with our coach GS Sandhu. He was tense and said we have won two medals. Abhinav Bindra had won the gold medal and in wrestling also we won a medal. Akhil and Jeetendra were doing good at that time. The coach said that if we don't win a medal here, it's going to be insulting when we go back to India.
“Sushil (Kumar) had won the medal by then in wrestling. I was in the changing room at that time and I said to my coach don't worry, we will win a medal this time," Vijender Singh said in an event in New Delhi, as reported by India Today.
And the pugilist from Bhiwani kept his word, beating Carlos Gongora of Ecuador in the quarterfinals.
Vijender, unfortunately, lost out in the semis against Emilio Correa of Cuba, but he nevertheless scripted history bagging India’s first-ever Olympic medal in boxing by capturing a bronze in Beijing.
Pro boxing stint
The 34-year-old went on to win medals at the subsequent Commonwealth and Asian Games following the 2008 Olympic Games, before taking the jump from amateur to professional boxing, where he signed with American company - Top Rank.
As a professional boxer, Vijender has tasted a lot of success as he went on to register 11 straight victories, with eight of those coming via knockouts. Vijender Singh now intends to use that professional boxing experience to bolster India’s Olympic prospects, after he signalled his intent to return to amateur boxing ahead of the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifiers are set to take place in the Chinese city of Wuhan from 3-14 February 2020.
There will also be a final World qualifier in Paris 13-24 May next year, which will determine who will make the cut for Tokyo 2020.