The only Indian boxer to have qualified for this year's Olympics so far, Shiva Thapa today said the 'Road to Rio' has been the toughest journey of his career till date even though he has shut his mind to the myriad problems that engulf the sport in the country.
The 22-year-old Assam boy, who last year became only the third Indian boxer ever to clinch a World Championship bronze, won a silver medal and more importantly an Olympic quota berth at the just-concluded Asia/Oceania Zone Qualifiers in Qian'an, China.
With this, the world No.6 in bantamweight category is set for his second successive Olympic appearance after making his debut back in 2012 as an 18-year-old. At that time, he became the youngest Indian boxer ever to have qualified for the quadrennial extravaganza, winning a sensational gold medal in the qualifiers.
"This time, it's been mentally more challenging and certainly the toughest of my career. I had a point to prove, deep inside perhaps I was very angry and wanted to show what I could do," Shiva told PTI in an interview.
"That's why when I won the semifinal bout, which assured me of an Olympic spot, I let out a huge scream in the ring. It was a lot of pent up emotions which came out. I don't need to say how tough it has been for us in India because of all that has happened in the last few years and it was such a relief to qualify and beat the circumstances," he said.
India has been without a national federation for almost a year now after Boxing India was terminated following a rebellion by state units. That termination was a continuation of the turmoil that engulfed the sport in 2012 when the erstwhile Indian Amateur Boxing Federation was dissolved owing to manipulation in elections.
As a result, Indian boxers are competing under the International Boxing Association (AIBA) flag and could even be barred by the world body from Olympics if a national federation does not take shape by May 14.
Asked if this AIBA threat plays on his mind, the former Asian champion simply breaks into laughter. "I don't think about it and I am being honest here. That's the best possible way to deal with it, I just shut my mind to all this. Everybody knows we boxers have gone through a lot and still managed to perform. So, it's best not to think about it too much," he said.