'Want to win gold at Glasgow CWG'
A year back not much was known about him. Now, Laishram Devendro Singh is quite famous.
The shy, 20-year-old from Manipur has achieved a lot in the year gone.
If reaching the quarter-finals of the World Amateur Boxing Championships in Baku (Azerbaijan) last year helped him qualify for the London Olympics, then at the quadrennial event the youngster went a step further.
The boxer qualified for the last eight, scoring an upset win over 2008 Beijing Games silver medallist and 2009 World champion Serdamba Purevdorj in the light-flyweight (49 kg) division. In fact, it won't be exaggeration to say the fourth seeded Mongolian was clueless during his 11-16 defeat.
Some debatable refereeing, and a resolute quarter-final opponent (Ireland's Paddy Barnes), might have cost Devendro a place in the semi-final, and thereby a medal, but, by then, the diminutive boxer had done enough to make himself and his country proud.
In an interview with Bikash Mohapatra, the pugilist assesses his performance in London, laments missing out on a medal and promises to win one the next time. Excerpts.
Looking back at the London Games, how would you assess your performance?
It was my first Olympics. I had worked hard ahead of it and gave my best shot. Fortunately, I managed to do well and reach the quarter-finals. I'm going to start preparing for the next Games in Rio from now itself.
Image: Devendro Singh
'You have to learn to accept defeat if you want to win'
Having come so close, how disappointing was it to have missed out on a medal?
I was very disappointed. For five to six days I didn't even talk to anyone. For years I had aspired to get an Olympic medal and had put in a lot of hard work. I was very confident this time. But I lost the fight that would have ensured me a medal. So I was naturally very upset. But I want to forget all that now and focus on not repeating the mistakes I made.
Can you elaborate on the mistakes you just mentioned?
There were some mistakes that I made, especially in the second round. There were some fouls I committed and those mistakes cost me dear. There were also occasions when I should have been awarded the point but the judges thought otherwise.
But what has happened has happened. There's no point thinking about it now.
The Indian management complained of debatable refereeing and controversial warnings after your bout. Do you feel shortchanged?
Maybe, I didn't get a few points I should have. But I accept that I was defeated by a boxer who was better on the day. You have to learn to accept defeat if you want to win.
Image: Devendro Singh
Photographs: Bikash Mohapatra / Rediff.com
'Speed is my biggest weapon'
You were India's last medal hope in boxing. Vijender Singh had lost earlier (to Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan in the quarter-final). Was there any pressure as the last contender?
No, there was no pressure as such. I was only thinking about my fight.
What is the contribution of BIas Fernandez (the foreign coach) to Indian boxing in general, and yourself in particular?
He has been in India for a long time now. He is a very good coach. He trains us very well and helps in ironing out the flaws. He keeps telling me that speed is my biggest weapon and that I need to use it to good effect while punching my opponent. Even Sandhu sir (coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu) points out my mistakes and gives me tips to help overcome them.
What's the reaction back home in Manipur, to your success and that of MC Mary Kom (bronze medalist in women's 51 kg)?
Everyone back in Manipur is happy about the success we (him and Mary Kom) have achieved. But they are disappointed with my performance to an extent as well. They were certain that I would come back with a medal so they are, may be a bit angry. When I go home they all come to meet me but also keep teasing me about the mistakes I made. I hope in the next Olympics I can fulfill their dreams of a medal.
Finally, what are your plans for the future?My coach has advised me rest for a few days. So I'll be taking a couple of weeks off before starting practice again. The senior nationals will happen in Patiala next month and that is my next event. The next big target is obviously the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. I'll definitely try to win the gold there.
Image: Devendro Singh