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Rediff.com  » Sports » Teen boxers Shiva, Sumit eye Olympic glory after gold

Teen boxers Shiva, Sumit eye Olympic glory after gold

Last updated on: April 13, 2012 10:16 IST

'I always dreamt of making it to the Olympics'

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They dreamt of appearing at the Olympics some day, but Indian boxers Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan never thought they would realise their aspirations as teenagers.

The 18-year-old Shiva (56kg) and the 19-year-old Sumit (81kg) are among three teens (L Devendro Singh (49kg) being the third), in India's unprecedented seven-strong boxing squad which has qualified for the London Olympics.

The two clinched not just Olympic berths but also gold medals in their respective categories at the Asian qualifying tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan, on Thursday.

Shiva is the youngest Indian boxer to make it to the Olympics, having achieved the feat at an age when he becomes eligible to vote and drive.

"I always dreamt of making it to the Olympics when I started boxing, but wow! I mean I have actually qualified. It feels just fantastic," the Assam-boxer, a silver-medallist at the Youth Olympics, said from Astana.

Shiva, who was included in the team at the expense of senior boxer Akhil Kumar, was competing in only his second senior international event after striking gold on debut last year.


Image: Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan
Photographs: Hari Shankar Varma (Indian national boxing team physiotherapist)

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'I never thought that I would do it so soon'

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For Sumit, it was his first senior international event after getting the better of Olympian Dinesh Kumar in the national trials.

"Of course, you dream that it happens but I never thought that I would do it so soon. It's a great feeling," Sumit, who started boxing in 2001, said.

The two come from distinct backgrounds. While Shiva is a product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, Haryana-lad Sumit has honed his skills under the watchful eyes of his boxer uncle Vinod Sangwan.

The two were batch mates at the junior and youth level and their rise in the senior ranks has also coincided quite brilliantly.


Image: Sumit Sangwan
Photographs: Hari Shankar Varma (Indian national boxing team physiotherapist)

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'It's the first step towards the bigger dream of getting an Olympic medal'

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Talking about their performance at a stage as big as the Olympic Qualifiers, the duo discussed the challenges of planning for bigger, older and experienced opponents but brushed aside talk of any nerves.

"What nerves? Once I was selected for the tournament, I had the confidence that I could do it," said Shiva.

"No bout is easy at any level, but, at the senior level, I came across guys who were taller and stronger and it all came down to planning and executing the strategy given to us by our coaches," added Sumit.

No doubt, it's a dream realized for them, but one that is still incomplete.

"It's the first step towards the bigger dream of getting an Olympic medal. That it is the ultimate goal," said Shiva, whose favourite at the start of his career was Mike Tyson, though, right now, that preference lies blank.

"Favourites keep changing. It used to be Mike Tyson when I started, because of his style, but, right now, it's no one," said Shiva.


Photographs: Hari Shankar Varma (Indian national boxing team physiotherapist)

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'They have shown maturity beyond their age'

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The two said they hardly have any time to celebrate this triumph as they have to prepare themselves for a bigger celebration.

"Qualifying is done, now for the bigger challenge – the Olympics. If we win there, then we will celebrate," said Sumit.

National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu was effusive in his praise of the young guns.

"They have shown maturity beyond their age. Their performance has been superb in every count. Indian boxing is lucky to have such good young talent," he said.


Image: Left to right: Indian boxing team coach Blas Fernandez, physiotherapist Hari Shankar Varma, Shiva Thapa and coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
Photographs: Hari Shankar Varma (Indian national boxing team physiotherapist)

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