Vijender Singh stuns reigning Olympic champion raising India’s hopes of medal at the Beijing Games
MUMBAI: India may have pinned its hope on Rajvardhan Singh Rathore and Paes-Bhupathi (if they play together) for an Olympic medal but don’t be surprised if pugilists strike it rich at Beijing. Vijender Singh has now catapulted himself as a medal-prospect after stunning the Olympic champion at an international tournament in Chinese Taipei on Tuesday. The 75-kg-category boxer comprehensively beat Bakhtiyar Artayev of Kazakhstan in the quarter-finals of the President’s Cup boxing tournament.
The President’s Cup is a dress rehearsal for the Olympics. A total of 126 Olympic qualified boxers from 26 countries are competing across 11 categories in this tournament.
Speaking to DNA, Indian Boxing Association secretary ML Raja said that Vijender’s was one of the biggest wins in Indian boxing. “The Asian Games bronze medallist showed excellent ring craft and maintained his defence extremely well. His movements were swift and decisive. From the very first round, he maintained a comfortable two-point lead over the Kazakh,” Raja said.
Vijender’s 12-7 win was all the more sweet as he had lost to Artayev at the Doha Asian Games in December 2006 in the semi finals. The Haryana-boxer will now take on Thai Angkhan Chomphuphuang in the last four on May 30.
Vijender Kumar has been confident of a good show at Beijing. In an interview with DNA, the 22-year-old had exuded confidence of doing well at the Olympics. “This will be my second Olympics and compared to Athens I have more experience. Having won a medal at Commonwealth Games has given me a lot of confidence to perform at the international stage,” he said. He also added that, physically, he was in a good shape.
The other boxer who has impressed recently has been Akhil Kumar. The bantamweight boxer beat Olympics silver medalist Worapoj Petchkoom in February. In the process, Akhil had emerged the best boxer in the tournament and secured his Olympics spot.
Meanwhile, the Indian Boxing Association is keen to improve the medal hopes by providing as much exposure to the boxers as possible. After returning from Taipei, the Indian boxing contingent will tour Germany for 18 days following which they will be heading to Uzbekistan for 10 days.
Raja said that given the current performances of Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar, soon boxing would join shooting, tennis and women’s weightlifting as a prospective medal-winning sport in Olympics.