NEW DELHI: It was the Olympic medal that set the stage for the rise of Indian boxing to world standards.
Vijender Singh, however, rose from that life-changing bronze 13 summers ago in Beijing because “that’s what mature people do.”
“It’s growth, when you let go of an identity and embrace new things, understand things that don’t matter at one point in time. It comes with time and responsibility,” said the middleweight boxer at PTI in an exclusive conversation.
“Life is a new lesson every day.”
But one month away from the Tokyo Olympics and as the world celebrates Olympic Day, one can’t help but take a trip down memory lane to relive one of the most iconic moments in Indian sport – the first Olympic medal. of the country in boxing.
“These were golden days, we were carefree, without responsibilities. Our training, diet and a few friends were all that mattered,” said the 35-year-old, who is a three-time Olympian, recalling of accumulation. at the Beijing Games.
He reached the big event in what was the last qualifying event after two failed attempts.
In Beijing, he was the only boxing medal hope left when the more experienced Akhil Kumar lost in the quarter-finals, a shocking result given he had beaten world champion – Sergey Vodopyanov – in the previous round.
Carrying unprecedented expectations, Vijender kept his cool to gain the upper hand over Ecuador Carlos Gongora in his quarterfinal fight and history was made.
It meant the world to him at the time, but over a decade later he wouldn’t even write Olympian in his social media bio, which most other current or former athletes do.
“I had a good Olympics, I did my best in Beijing, luckily it resulted in a bronze medal. Along the way it helped Indian boxing, it’s good for everyone I say.
“But I tried several things afterwards. I got married, I had children, I became a professional, I also got into politics. So I don’t see the point of looking back. “, he explained.
“Ek purani kahawat hai hamare yahan, agar girna bhi ho to aage ko giro, peeche ko nahin. Peeche jaake ya peeche gir ke kya fayda (There is an old saying on our side. Even if you fall, fall forward, not back), “he laughed, trying to put things in perspective.
Looking ahead, how does he see the medal chances of the nine unprecedented Indian boxers who have qualified for the Games this time around? “Really strong.
I’m not very close to amateur boxing because I’m busy elsewhere too, but from what I’ve seen, heard and read, they seem good at winning more than a medal, ”said Vijender.
“Amit (Panghal) is in great shape, Vikas (Krishan) looks strong and you obviously have Mary Kom. It’s a very accomplished roster and I hope to take some action if not fully follow their progress in Tokyo. .
“Among the women as well, Simranjit Kaur is there. It’s good to see so many young faces making it to their first Olympics. I’m sure it would be a life-changing experience,” added the star, who said. contested and lost the 2019 Lok Sabha Elections from South Delhi on a congressional ticket.
Despite this heartbreak, Vijender said he would not give up politics.
“It’s not about winning or losing elections, it’s about beliefs. I have mine, many others have theirs and it’s never a bad thing to stick to those beliefs. So I would be there and do my best, “he said.
With COVID-19 casting a shadow over almost everything that was once normal in the world, Vijender’s professional career is also on hold for now, though he hopes to fight at least once later this year.
“The situation is such that I do not feel comfortable traveling at the moment. I am happy to be the father of my sons, it is an invaluable time,” he said.
But once the world is back to normal, Vijender has a dream he hopes to someday fulfill.
“I want to climb Mount Everest someday. It’s a dream and I haven’t done anything to get started yet but I hope one day I can. It would be an achievement, wouldn’t it?” he signed.