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India's Olympics-bound boxers undeterred by virus fears

By HARISH KOTIAN
Last updated on: March 19, 2020 11:10 IST
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'Our boxers are mature and strong enough to withstand these kinds of shocks.'

MC Mary Kom

IMAGE: MC Mary Kom qualified for her second Olympic Games after winning the bronze medal at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan. Photograph: MC Mary Kom/Instagram

After the high of having an unprecedented nine boxers securing qualification for the Tokyo Olympics, the recent coronavirus pandemic is proving to be a big shock for the Indian pugilists.

2012 London Olympics bronze medallist M C Mary Kom (51kg) along with Amit Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg), Satish Kumar (+91kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Pooja Rani (81kg) secured qualification for Tokyo at the ]Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Amman, Jordan.

But since their return to India, they have been in compulsory isolation for 14 days and wondering how things will turn out in the future since all their upcoming training-cum-competition tournaments scheduled in the US and Russia in the next couple of months look set to be cancelled.

While accepting the setback as a shock, Boxing Federation of India Secretary-General Jay Kowli soundS confident that the boxers are strong enough to withstand such problems and will give their best to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics.

 

"Our boxers are mature and strong enough to withstand these kinds of shocks. Look at someone like Mary Kom, she has seen more shocks in life or Vikas Krishnan, he is a seasoned professional. It came as a shock, but we are very much prepared for any eventuality," Kowli tells Harish Kotian/Rediff.com.

"This quarantine is good for us and everyone. We are taking all precautionary measures and we are working very closely with the government. We are also following up with the IOC closely," Kowli adds.

"We are closely monitoring the situation, at the same time we are following all the government guidelines. We have our medical team, our support staff doctors helping us to monitor the boxers, their training and everything else."

The Indian boxers were training in Assisi, Italy, ahead of the coronavirus outbreak and only managed to get out a couple of days before a complete shutdown was imposed in that country.

"It was the right decision and it was an absolutely close call," says Kowli. "Luckily, I was awake that night working on some project and I got a call from Santiago Nieva, our high performance director, to inform about the development."

"It was the right call at the right time otherwise they would have struggled to reach (Amman) for the Olympic Qualifiers," adds Kowli.

C A Kuttappa

IMAGE: Chief Boxing Coach C A Kuttappa at a training session.

Chief Boxing Coach C A Kuttappa says the 14-day quarantine won't hamper the boxers's preparations as they had already planned for a 10-day break after arriving in India.

Their next move is to get together all the nine qualified boxers for a training camp at the National Institute of Sports in Patiala after the quarantine period ends, along with other boxers who will take part in future qualifying tournaments.

"By the 31st of this month, things will become more clear in terms of our future planning. We had planned to go to the US for training cum competition, and then we had planned to visit Russia in May," says Kuttappa.

"Right now, we don't know what our next plan will be, we are finding it difficult at the moment to plan for the future. But this has affected everyone in the world, so we can't do anything about it. We will train in India only and see what happens next," says Kuttappa.

"After March 31, we will plan on what to do next before the Olympics. We will call only the boxers who have qualified for the Olympics and the boxers whose Olympic trials are coming up, so we will have 10 to 15 boxers in Patiala, along with 3 to 4 coaches and 3 to 4 support staff members," the chief coach adds.

"If the tours that we have planned in April-May, that works out then it will be beneficial for our boxers and things will go to plan for them as far as the Olympics is concerned," Kuttappa points out.

Kuttappa did not realise the extent of the coronavirus outbreak till he left Italy and is relieved that they exited the country in time courtesy the Boxing Federation of India.

"We were training in the south of Italy in Assisi, this outbreak started in Milan. We were very far from the outbreak at that point, but we had given instructions to our team that they should not go out. We were lucky that the federation arranged to get us out of the country at the earliest."

"The officials in Jordan also allowed us to reach the country early and they booked our hotels," he adds.

The boxers, Kuttappa says, have been told to continue with their training programme even though they have been isolated at home. They have to send videos daily of them training to prove that they are in the pink of health.

"We have told them to continue their regular training in the morning. They have been told to take a break from boxing and just do normal exercises like running, some shadow boxing or play some other games. We have asked them to avoid crowds and avoid any media interactions or any functions like weddings," says Kuttappa.

"I talk to them daily and they send me videos too. I had told them to send videos daily to show that they are okay and that their family is also doing well. There is no problem at the moment," the chief coach adds.

Kuttappa hails his wards's performances at the Olympic qualifying tournament in Amman, saying their efforts of the last few years are bearing fruits.

"It was a good performance by our boxers. We made a few little changes in the techniques, in the tactics, and also in the strength training. We did extensive planning; we had the boxers taking part in a lot of competitions for our No 1, No 2 and No 3 boxers in all categories," says Kuttappa.

"Previously, the top two boxers in each category would get the chance to take part in competitions, but this time everyone has got the opportunity to prove their worth," he adds.

"The boxers also had a good competition amongst themselves, they wanted to perform better than their colleagues. Everyone wanted to prove themselves and this was a major reason for the improvement of the Indian boxers and the result is all for everyone to see," he says, proudly.

Kuttappa highlights Mary Kom's contribution. He believes the Olympic champion is a guiding force for young Indian boxers.

"She is a very important member of the boxing team. Everyone calls her Magnificent Mary and we all respect her a lot," says the chief coach. "She has achieved so much in her career that all the boys and girls are motivated by her sheer presence."

"She speaks to all the young boxers, motivates them by telling her story of how she started out and all that. Mary Kom is a positive influence on the team."

Kowli says the boxing federation will not spare any efforts to prepare for the Tokyo Olympics despite the prevailing circumstances. "Putting in efforts is our hands, but success and failure is in God's hands."

"We are not falling short, not even 0.0001 percent in terms of efforts from our end," says Kowli, "whether it is the boxers or the coaches or us at the federation."

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HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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