The Indian boxing contingent returned from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games with four silvers and one bronze medals. It's not exactly a bagful of medals and even pales in comparison to the pugilists' show at the Delhi CWG four years ago (three gold, four bronze). But "given the circumstances the boxers have performed under, it's a five-star show," says India's most decorated boxer Vijender Singh.
In an interview with mid-day, the Beijing Olympics bronze medal-winner and only Indian boxer to have competed in three CWGs and won medals in each (silver at Melbourne 2006, bronze at Delhi 2010 & silver at Glasgow 2014) explained how the suspension of the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in 2012, followed by the suspension of the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) by the international federation (AIBA) combined with a series rule changes in the sport, could easily have destroyed Indian boxing.
Q. What's your take on the Indian boxing contingent's show in Glasgow?
A. It's a very good performance given the circumstances we have fought under. The IOA was suspended and then the IBF was suspended. It has been a very tough period for us boxers. We had absolutely no international exposure — my last international fight was a year ago at the World Championships in Kazakhstan. You may train for numerous hours, but without match practice, particularly international matches, it's very difficult to succeed globally.
Q. But it must be disappointing for the boxers to miss out on the gold medal having reached four finals?
A. We always tend to look at the end result, and ignore the path leading to it. Honestly, we didn't expect much going to Glasgow simply because we had hardly any international match practice. So the four of us (Vijender, L Devendro Singh, Mandeet Jangra and Sarita Devi) reaching the finals in itself is an achievement. Then unfortunately, the scoring system also changed and without headgear things can always be tough as you keep progressing in a tournament. Going into the finals, I was in pain, Debu (Devendro Singh) was injured and so was Mandeep.
Q. So are you unhappy with the new scoring system?
A. It's not about being unhappy with the system. We didn't have enough exposure to work with this system and that's the reason we probably missed out on the gold. But I still maintain these silver medals are worth their weight in gold.
Q. Your final was a close affair. What went wrong?
A. I had a bit of a slip in the initial rounds and that probably went against me. Also let's face it, most of us were up against boxers from the host nation or neighbouring Northern Ireland or England and they will always hold the edge with the crowd vociferously backing them. But I do not want to offer any excuses. We went to Glasgow, did our best and the results are there for all to see. I don't think anyone can question our commitment.
Q. Next up is the Asian Games (Sept 19 to Oct 4) in Incheon where you are the defending champion. Are you ready to live up to the high expectations?
A. My aim has always been the top prize whether it is at the Olympics, the World Championships, the CWG, the Asian Games or any other event for that matter. I promise to give it my best shot in Incheon too.