'Asian Games are always tougher than CWG'
With expectations sky-high after their stupendous Commonwealth Games performance but very little time for preparations, Indian pugilists head to Guangzhou for the Asian Games where the country has not won a boxing gold since 1998.
The flamboyant Dingko Singh was the last Indian boxer to strike gold at the Asian Games in the Bangkok edition and coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu is hoping that the gold drought of the previous two Games, in Busan (2002) and Doha (2006), would come to an end this time.
"Asian Games are always tougher than the Commonwealth Games because of the fact that erstwhile Soviet Union nations such as Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan compete here. And China is also a rising power in boxing along with Korea.
"So let's see how the competition goes. Our boys have worked as hard as they could and hopefully they would get the results," said Sandhu.
Image: Vijender Singh
'Every boy in the camp is getting motivated'
Expectations have soared to an all-time high after the three gold and four bronze medals that the Indian boxers won at the Commonwealth Games last month but Sandhu said instead of pressure, it has only motivated his wards to do better.
"It is quite intimidating to know that expectations are getting higher but it is also motivating. All these boys are getting so much adulation after their wins that every boy in the camp is getting motivated," he said.
The 10-member team, barring Olympic and World Championships bronze-medallist Vijender Singh (75kg) and Commonwealth Games bronze-winner Dilbag Singh (69k), all of them would be competing at the Asian Games for the first time.
Image: Akhil Kumar
Very little gap between the CWG and the Asian Games
What has hampered the preparations to an extent is the very little time gap between the Commonwealth and the Asian Games.
The two events fall within a month of each other and Sandhu said that it is detrimental to the recovery process of boxers whose bodies anyhow get punished because of the strict weight maintenance regimen they have to follow in the build-up to major competitions.
"Just one month's gap between two events of such importance can never be good. The boys need time to recover because boxing is a contact sport. It might be just 11 minutes in the ring but to make those 11 minutes count, a boxer exerts himself tremendously," he explained.
"The good thing is we are reaching there well in advance. The boxing competition will start only on November 16 and we would get time to acclimatise ourselves," he said.
Image: Gurbax Singh Sandhu and Vijender Singh
Vijender and Suranjoy are India's best bet
Among the brightest medal prospects for India -- apart from Vijender -- would be Suranjoy Singh (52kg) -- the low-profile diminutive Manipuri who has won an astonishing seven international gold medals since April 2009.
The 23-year-old delivered his latest golden punch at the CWG and though he is not too happy with the "very little time" he has got for training, he is confident of adding an eighth gold to his tally.
"It would have been better to have got more than a month to prepare because our bodies need that time to get ready. But it's ok. There is no point complaining because these schedules were known to us and now we just have to focus on getting it right in the ring," he said.
For Vijender, it is all about getting over the disappointment of having to settle for a bronze in the CWG after a controversial loss in the semi-finals.
"There is no point thinking about what has happened. I have already moved on and I am confident of getting a gold at the Asian Games," he said.
Image: Suranjoy Singh