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NEW DELHI: “We want to win 10 out of 10 gold medals,” says Vijender. That might sound too boastful but it throws light on the preparedness of the Indian boxers, who, of late, have been accorded star status for their consistent performances on the big stage.
In the 2006 Melbourne Games, Indian boxers had bagged a gold, two silver and two bronze medals. This time, the Indian Boxing Federation has fielded a stronger team and considering the host's six-gold haul in the Commonwealth championship in March, the expectations soar higher.
The pugilists are all the more spirited for the sole reason that the Games are being held in their own country. When asked what did the Commonwealth Games mean to a star athlete, the 75kg World and Olympic medallist Vijender says it is all about the pride of the country. “It becomes more meaningful because it is being held in Delhi. Our people from nook and corner of the country will come to watch us in action. It is an inspiring moment for our youth, an occasion where we can give them so many facilities (read infrastructure),” said Vijender.
So how has been the feeling so far? “I will tell about my feeling after I land my punches,” was the tongue-in-cheek reply from Vijender, a silver medallist in the Melbourne Games. However, he was quick to add that every bout was going to be tough. “Remember, there is no pullout in boxing,” he said.
One can gauge Vijender's seriousness about the competition when he says, “I am keeping my mobile phone switched off these days.”
Akhil Kumar (56kg), the ‘tragic hero' of Indian boxing, had been waiting for this occasion to regain his lost pride. The narrow loss in the Beijing Olympics quarterfinals, which denied him the coveted Olympics medal, still rankles him. “Now I know how big was the loss! I could have gone on to become the Olympic champion,” he said.
“I will try my best to retain my gold (of 2006),” said the 29-year-old. For Suranjoy Singh (52kg), it is just another chance to inflate his rich collection of gold medals. “I am perfectly fine and ready for the challenge,” he announced. The diminutive boxer is quite relaxed in the Games Village and has got a chance to meet his friends from Mauritius and Cuba.
“The Village has come to life now. When we had reached here, there were fewer athletes. Now, one can feel the hustle and bustle of a big Games,” he said.
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