When a six-member Indian boxing contingent left for Astana, Kazhakstan last week to participate in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers — last chance for the pugilists to grab that London ticket — chief coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu said that the team could bag at least two Olympic slots. However, Sandhu, in his own admission, could well be proved wrong today — and happily at that.
Five of the six fighters — Shiva Thapa (56kg), Vijender Singh (75kg), Sumit Sangwan (+81kg), Manpreet Singh (91kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) — have reached the semi-finals in Astana with only Suranjoy Singh (52kg), having lost in the preliminaries.
Beijing Olympics bronze winner Vijender is the only fighter to have already clinched his Olympic berth here when he outpunched Mongolia’s Chuluuntumur Tumurkhuyag two days ago to become the first Indian boxer set to participate in three Olympics.
Shiva and Sumit must win their respective semi-finals tonight, while Manpreet and Paramjeet have to go all the way and clinch gold, if they wish to make it to London. Shiva and Sumit have a ray of hope of making it to the Games even if they lose tonight but only if their respective opponents go on to win gold. In that case, they too will qualify as the third boxer in that respective weight category. That, however will be after a nervous wait and coach Sandhu believes the duo can pull of the incredible tonight.
“Both Shiva and Sumit have put up a fine show here and have proved that they are worthy of making it to the London Olympics. Both are more than capable of winning tonight and sealing those two berths,” Sandhu told MiD DAY from Astana yesterday.
“Shiva and Sumit have been very consistent in the run-up to this tournament. They have won gold medals in European competitions and were expected to do well here too. However, I must admit, that the manner in which the two teenagers have beaten their opponents here, has been more than impressive. While Shiva (18) convincingly beat 2004 Athens Olympics silver winner Worapoj Petchkoom of Thailand in the quarter-finals (16-10), Sumit (19) in just his first senior international event shocked reigning Asian champion Hyeongkyu Kim of Korea (22-12).
They were both near-impossible bouts to win but the duo did it easily. That’s the reason I’m so confident today. I’m a very realistic person and like to keep my guard up always and that’s why I expected two Olympic slots to start off with. Now I’m sure my boys will supercede all expectations,” said Sandhu.
After yesterday’s rest day, Shiva will face Japan’s Satoshi Simizu, while Sumit will be up against Jordan’s Ihab Almatdault tonight. In the other semi-finals, Manpreet will take on Iran’s Ali Mazaheri, while Paramjeet will be up against Syria’s Soumar Ghosoun and Vijender will fight Turkmenitan’s Nursahat Pazziyev.