Thursday, July 23, 2015

Interview: Amateur boxers can earn decent money: Vikas Krishnan Yadav



He is talked about as India’s best boxing hope in the middleweight category after iconic Vijender Singh turned professional this year. The 23-year-old Vikas Krishnan Yadav is a precocious talent, who as a 18-year-old won the 2010 Asian Games gold in the 60-kg category. The Haryana boxer went on to bag a bronze in the 2011 AIBA World Championship and also featured in the 2012 London Olympics. A disappointing Olympics campaign saw Vikas take a long break from boxing and returned to the ring in emphatic fashion, winning the bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

The Haryana Police DSP, who is geared up for the upcoming Asian Boxing Championship as well as the AIBA World Championship, spoke about his boxing, long break from the sport after the 2012 London Olympics and much more in an exclusive interview.

Excerpts:

Q How are the preparations going on for the upcoming Asian Boxing Championships to be held in Bangkok in August?

The training sessions have been coming of well and I’m really looking forward to giving a solid performance in the Asian Boxing Championships given the fact that the event is happening before September’s AIBA World Championship in Doha.

Q You are boxing in the upcoming Asian Boxing Championships in the middleweight category – a weight category where iconic Vijender Singh attained stardom. Do you feel any pressure about delivering like him?

I don’t think on those lines. Vijender is a great boxer and has done so well in this middleweight category for more than ten years, which is a big thing. There is so much to learn from him, but I have done well in different weight categories before. I won the 2010 Asiad gold in the 60kg category and won the 2014 Asian bronze in the 75 kg category. It all about adjusting to the new weight category and training hard and I’m keen to do well.

Q Boxing lovers were excited about a bout between you and Vijender Singh for a middleweight slot in the 2014 Commonwealth as well as the 2014 Asian Games and on both occasions the bout did not take place as both got injured.

I was slated to play Vijender in the trials for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but I suffered an eye injury and then again for the Asian Games trials he suffered an injury. I know people in India were looking forward to our bout, but it did not happen due to injuries to both of us.

Q   The AIBA World Championship is obviously big event for boxers to make a mark and also holds crucial interest because it doubles as a qualifying event for the 2016 Rio Olympics.

I’m focussing on the AIBA World Championship – I want to win a medal there – I had won a bronze in the 2011 AIBA World Championship. I’m confident about doing well in Doha and making it to the Rio Olympics.

Q Is too early to talk about your Olympic preparations?

I don’t want to think about the Rio Olympics now. The AIBA World Championship is my immediate focus area as winning a medal will help me qualify for the Olympics. I will begin my Olympic preparations only after the AIBA World Championship.

Q How do you look at the new rules put in place by AIBA in terms of no headgear and change in scoring system?

The new rules are tough not just for me but for all boxers across the globe. The new scoring system means boxers would have to be aggressive all the time and cannot afford to remain dormant at times.

Q As a boxer, what do you think are your strengths and weakness?

My coaches tell me my defence is quite strong and I believe I need to work on my attacks, which will make me more lethal in the ring.

Q You were so disappointed with your pre-quarterfinal loss in the 2012 London Olympics that you took a break from boxing for close to two years.

I was feeling dejected at not being to win a medal in the Olympics and my interest for boxing dipped considerably. I took a long break and returned to the ring only last year, where I won a bronze at the Asian Games.

Q The Indian Boxing Council (IBC) is seen as positive augury for boxers. What’s your take?

My belief is that one can enough decent money as amateur boxers. If you do well in major competitions you get handsome cash awards from the government and job, what more you want, so don’t think taking the professional boxing route is as attractive as people are saying.


  


Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Needless Jwala-Gopichand controversy must be nipped in the bud!

Indian badminton has been riding high in recent years with the performances of our shuttlers making the country proud. There have been plethora of occasions when Indian players have scripted upsets in various major international events be it the men or women be it the singles or doubles. ‘Controversy’ was the last thing the sport needed as everything seemed hunky-dory.

And Indian badminton has to put up with such a ‘controversy’ as the country’s top women’s doubles player Jwala Gutta took a dig at national chief coach Pullela Gopichand of not doing enough to push the case of Jwala and her women’s doubles pair Ashwini Poonappa for their inclusion in the Target Olympic Podium (TOP) scheme for which the Sports Ministry has announced two lists of athletes, who will get funding for their 2016 Rio Olympic preparations.

Of course, Jwala’s outburst against Gopichand is not in good taste. We all know how much Gopichand has done for Indian badminton and his work speaks for itself. Just because he is a member of the TOP Identification Committee hardly means that he can influence anything ‘nasty’ to put the Jwala-Ashwini duo of the TOP scheme. A coach, who commands respect among the players, the tirade against him by Jwala is disappointing. There are others like Rahul Dravid, MC Mark Kom, Abhinav Bindra, Anju Bobby George in the TOP Identification Committee and one can be sure that one person won’t have wielded so much clout to keep the Jwala-Ashwini pair out of the TOP scheme.

However, one cannot deny the fact that a raw deal has been meted out to the Jwala-Ashwini duo. The doubles pair, who are ranked in the top-15 should have been picked in the TOP scheme in the first list and one felt that the announcement of the second TOP list, which did not feature the names of Jwala and Ashwini really triggered anger and frustration among them. Both Jwala and Ashwini richly deserved to be included in the TOP scheme and the Sports Ministry must act swiftly to douse the prevailing turmoil by announcing their inclusion in the TOP scheme. The Badminton Association of India (BAI) and the Sports Ministry must talk to Jwala and Ashwini and ask especially, the former to refrain from taking swipes at the national chief coach. Gopichand, on his part, has responded to Jwala’s outburst in his own gentle manner without going hammers and tongs.

For the betterment of Indian badminton, BAI must talk to Jwala and Ashwini and the Sports Ministry promptly facilitate their inclusion in TOP scheme. With less than a year to go for the Rio Olympics, such controversies must be nipped in the bud!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Hope to become world no.1 in three-four years: Sindhu

This piece was published in Sportskeeda  

She became the first Indian women singles player to win a medal (bronze) in the 2013 World Championship in China – a feat she repeated in the 2014 edition in Denmark. The 20-year-old Hyderabad girl is now setting her sights on making it three out of three in the upcoming the 2015 World Championship to be held in Jakarta, Indonesia from August 11-16.

Sindhu, who was troubled by a stress fracture on her left foot, keeping her out of competitive action for about three months, is putting in the hard yards as she gears up to take part in the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold, thus providing finishing touches to her preparations for the 2015 World Championship.


The World No. 14 spoke about her preparations, injury phase, love for biryani among others in an exclusive interview.


Excerpts:


Q. You were laid down with a prolonged injury (stress fracture on your left leg) and were out of action for close to three months
.


Injuries are bound to happen. It’s part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life. I missed two big events – All England Championships and India Open. You just have to take good care of your body and hope for the best.


Q. Do you think there are any lessons to be learnt from such injuries?


Well, one has to be patient during such injury phases as one can do little about it other than do the rehab as best you can. You can’t control injuries; you just have to be prepared to take it in your stride.


Q. The 2015 World Championship is just one month away. How well are you prepared this time around?


First of all, I’m more focused on next week’s Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold event, where I’m keen to fare well. A solid performance will really put me in a right frame of mind for the 2015 World Badminton Championship.


Q. You became the first Indian women’s singles player to win a medal in the 2013 World Badminton Championship and bagged another bronze in the 2014 edition. Are you hoping to make it 3 out 3?


I want to do well and make a podium finish. I’m working hard and keeping my fingers for the big-ticket event.


Q. Talking about your game, what are the areas you want to focus on?


I want to work on my defence and that’s not the only area I’m looking to improve as all aspects of my game need attention. It’s all about practicing hard, day in day out and it is only hard practice that can get you anywhere close to perfection.


Q. The Indian Badminton League (IBL) was a great hit in 2013, but has not been held since that. Do you think it’s a setback for Indian badminton?


The IBL attracted huge popularity as top international players slugged it out alongside the country’s top shuttlers. I don’t know whether it will be held this year as we have a packed international schedule.


Q. You are currently ranked 14th in the world. What will be a realistic goal to reach world number one?


Look, breaking into the top-10 is never easy, but staying there is very tough. You have to be really consistent to sustain yourself in the top-10. As for me, I will like to give myself three-four years and within that period I hope to become world number one.


Q. We all know your passion for badminton, but we also know about your penchant for biryani. Your thoughts.


Biryani is something I’m really fond of, but I can’t afford to have them all the time. I do satiate my biryani appetite in whatever way I can without disturbing my diet.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Injury woes for Indian wrestling

Injury woes are beginning to hit the Indian wrestling contingent with barely two months left for the 2015 World Wrestling Championship to be held at Las Vegas, USA from September 7-14. If the prolonged back injury to 2014 Asian Games silver medallist Bajrang Punia was not enough, the country’s top grappler Sushil Kumar has also sustained a shoulder injury and will like Bajrang not take part in the selection trials for the 2015 World Wrestling Championship.

This are not easy days for the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI). The WFI could consider itself fortunate that at least injuries to two of their key wrestlers have occurred now and not just days or weeks before the 2015 World Wrestling Championship, thus providing adequate buffer to Bajrang and Sushil to recuperate and be in best shape for the marquee event.

The World Wrestling Championship is always a big event for any wrestler and the fact that the event will also double as an Olympic qualifying events only enhances it significance and underpins the need for all Indian wrestlers to stay injury-free and give their best shot at winning a medal. “It is disappointing to have these injuries. Sushil is a champion grappler, while Bajrang is a very talented youngster. You can’t do much about these injuries, fortunately these guys have enough time to recover, which is good for us,” a WFI said.

The Indian wrestlers are to take part in a wrestling competition in Kazakhstan from July 23-26 and one is not sure whether Sushil will make it to the team for that event considering that he is giving the selection trials a miss. However, Bajrang is ruled out of the Kazakhstan tournament and is only expected to be fully fit by the first week of August. The WFI has given time to Bajrang to recover and will hold trials for his weight category (61) once he is fit as a fiddle. One hopes that Indian wrestling overcomes these injury setbacks and turn in a resounding performance in the 2015 World Wrestling Championship.

Vijender will be huge loss for Indian boxing: Sandhu

Of course, the road forward is very important for Indian boxing and there are questions arising about India’s medal chances in Rio with Vijender taking the professional route. Sandhu put things in perspective.
Vijender Singh is not the first Indian boxer to turn ‘professional’. Boxing lovers have heard about the likes of Gurcharan Singh, Rajkumar Sangwan and Venkatesh Devarajan taking the ‘professional boxing’ route. However, it is the timing of Vijender’s move that has set the tongues wagging. The 2016 Rio Olympics is only a year away and Vijender was a potential medal prospect.

So, how big a loss will Vijender’s absence from the amateur ring be for Indian boxing? Indian boxing will surely be poorer with Vijender’s exit from amateur boxing, but looking at the larger picture, one has to look forward and not dwell on the past.

“Vijender has done so much for the country. I think he will be a huge loss for Indian boxing,” said Indian boxing head coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu.

Sandhu, who has been coaching the Indian boxers since 1993, heaped praise on Vijender’s durability.
“He has been boxing since 2000. That is fifteen years of boxing, what more can one expect. Look at his exploits in the ring. He won the country’s Olympic medal in boxing and also won a bronze at the World Championship in 2009. He was world number one in his weight category in 2009,” said the decorated coach. “Two silver medals and one bronze in Commonwealth Games as well one gold medal and one bronze medal in Asian Games – he has won medals in all major tournaments, sustained three Commonwealth Games, two Asian Games and two Olympics, which is not easy for a boxer,” he continued.
“Look, we have to give him a big pat on his back for his contribution for Indian boxing and also have to look forward. There are quite a few talented boxers, who are capable of doing well on the world stage,” he said.

“Vikas Krishnan Yadav is now boxing in the middleweight category – a category Vijender used to fight. He won the gold at the 2010 Asiad as well as a bronze at the 2014 Asiad and is an exciting prospect. I’m expecting great things from him.”
Clearly, the road ahead for Indian boxing minus Vijender will not be easy, but one can count on the current crop of talented boxers to pull their weight not just in the 2015 AIBA World Championship as well as in the 2016 Rio Olympics among other tourneys.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Back injury derails talented wrestler Bajrang's World Cup preparations

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
 
India’s men’s wrestling team’s preparations for the upcoming World Wrestling Championships has suffered a setback due to a back injury to Bajrang Punia – a medal hopeful. The 2015 World Wrestling Championships, which will be held in Las Vegas, USA from September 7 to 15, is still two months away and Bajrang is racing against time to be fit after battling with a persistent back injury.
The 21-year-old grappler, who won silver in 61-kg in the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth and 2014 Incheon Asian Games, is bandied about as a potential medal prospect not just for the 2015 World Wrestling Championships, but also for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Interestingly, the Wrestling Federation of India (WFI) is holding trials for the 2015 World Wrestling Championships in the first week of July and Bajrang is certain to miss the trials.
“I have just started training a few days back and have been away from the mat since I suffered this back injury in a tournament in the USA in January. I have missed two tournaments during this period and now don’t want to miss the 2015 World Wrestling Championships. I hope to be fit by August and will then submit an application to the WFI requesting them to allow me to take part in trials. I’m optimistic about getting fully fit by August,” Bajrang says in an informal chat.
The 2013 World Wrestling Championship bronze medallist admitted it is never easy to be out of action because of injuries.
“You cannot control injuries. It will happen, but I’m sad that I missed two tournaments and was not able win medals for the country,” he revealed.
Bajrang, who is employed with Railways, believes the 2015 World Wrestling Championships is a tough exercise for the Indian wrestlers, since it has Olympic qualifying berths up for grabs.
“It will not be easy as all grapplers are tough to beat, especially those from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. The World Wrestling Championships will also have qualification berths for the 2016 Rio Olympics. I have to reach the semifinals in my 61-kg category to make the cut. Keeping fingers crossed,” he quipped.
One of the country’s most talented grappler, Bajrang, has won medals in all major international competitions since bursting onto the wrestling mat with a bronze medal effort in the 2013 Asian Wrestling Championship and he hasn’t looked back since then. The Indian wrestling contingent will need Bajrang for the World Wrestling Championships and one hopes he is fit as a fiddle by August and hits the mat in Las Vegas in September.

What happens to Vijender Singh's DSP job after turning pro?


This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Indian boxing’s biggest medal hope in international competitions, Vijender Singh, has decided to pursue greener pastures beyond amateur boxing by turning professional, inking a multi-year deal with Queensberry Promotions through IOS Sports and Entertainment. But, will it be easy for him to carry out the transition from amateur to professional boxing?
Professional boxing offers attractive moolah, which is one of the biggest reasons why it entices amateur boxers to take the ‘professional route’. The mega bucks are surely the calling card for boxers, but one cannot deny that professional boxing is more rugged, strenuous and demands more dare-devilry than seen in amateur boxing.
Amidst Vijender’s switch to professional boxing from amateur, one question that has cropped up is what will happen to his government job he landed after winning the country’s first Olympic medal in boxing in Beijing in 2008. It may be recalled that the 29-year-old Bhiwani boxer was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Haryana Police by the erstwhile Bhupinder Singh Hooda government.

“Not possible to be a pro boxer and have a government job”

Although the officially Haryana Police are yet to take cognisance of his move to turn ‘professional’ sources say the ace boxer will have to give up his government job. A government job is handed to a sportsperson for winning laurels on the international stage, which obviously demands representing the country in all international competitions.
Apart from the job, the government authorities spend a lot of on a sportsperson’s training, diet and overseas tours. And by turning professional Vijender will have to do without all this.
“Look, he was appointed as DSP of Haryana Police for his exploits in the Beijing Olympics among others. Turning professional means he will not represent the country anymore. How can a boxer play professional boxing and hold on to a government job? It is just not possible,” said a source close to Boxing India.
It is learnt that Vijender was on probation with Haryana Police and is yet to do his police training. Although Vijender has many backers in the policy fraternity for his boxing exploits, his decision to turn professional hasn’t quite gone down well with local people.
“He could have boxed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and maybe after the age of 32-33, could have taken up professional boxing. Turning professional at the age of 29 is something that serves as a disappointment,” said a local boxing official.
Haryana Police has employed other ace boxers like Akhil Kumar, Paramjeet Samota and Vikas Yadav. It remains to be seen as to when Haryana Police takes an official call on Vijender’s DSP job.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Donated part of my cash awards to my fellow villagers, says world junior boxing champ Mandeep Kaur


This piece was published in Sportskeeda
 

Chakar – a nondescript hamlet – tucked away in the Ludhiana district of Punjab has been catapulted into spotlight, following the exploits of boxer Mandeep Kaur Sandhu in the AIBA World Junior Boxing Championship at Taipei (Taiwan). The 16-year-old Chakar girl shot into prominence winning the 52-kg gold medal outboxing Ireland’s Niamh Earley in the final.
Mandeep owes her success to Sher-E-Punjab Sports Academy, where she has been training since 2010. The youngster, who had won the 2011 and 2012 National Sub-junior Titles, had earlier in the year picked up a gold medal in the 4th Junior Nations Boxing Cup held in Serbia. The coy pugilist, who is otherwise ruthless in the ring, spoke about her boxing among others in an exclusive interview.

Q. How special was it winning the gold medal in the AIBA World Junior Boxing Championship at Taipei (Taiwan)?
I wanted to perform well in the World Junior Boxing Championship as it is a big event. I’m feeling good that I was able to win a gold medal for the country. There is nothing like doing well in the World Championships.
Q. You outboxed Ireland’s Niamh Earley to clinch the gold medal in the 52-kg category. Tell us about your bout.
My Irish opponent was a tough nut to crack. The gold medal did not come on a platter as I had to be at my best to beat her. It was a closely fought bout, but I had the last laugh with a 3-0 scoreline.
Q. You fought a total of four bouts en route to the gold medal finish. Share us your experiences of all the bouts.
I faced a boxer from England in my first round and managed to pull it off in a facile manner. My quarterfinal and semifinal bouts against Hungarian and French opponents went right down to the wire. Both opponents were throwing punches at me, but I boxed better than them to reach the final.
Q. How was the atmosphere when you returned to your village Chakar (in Ludhiana district) after returning from Taiwan?
I had won many medals at the national level and I was thinking why the reaction from my family members and people from my village were different this time around. A lot of people visited me and congratulated me – sweets were distributed and everyone burst into celebrations something I was not used to earlier. The encouragement from my near and dear ones as well as my fans and supporters will surely spur me to chase more glory in future.
Q. Do you receive any financial rewards for winning the World Championship gold medal?
The Punjab government, as well as NRIs from my village, have honoured me with financial rewards. In total, I have received a cash award of Rs. 15 lakh, 25% of which I have donated for the poor and under-privileged people of my village, so that they can pursue sports.
Q. Your boxing career really took shape when you joined the Sher-E-Punjab Boxing Academy, run by NRI brothers late Ajmer Singh Sidhu and Baldev Singh Sidhu. How much you owe your World Championship gold medal to this academy?
I owe everything to Sher-E-Punjab Boxing Academy as without their support it would have been not possible for me to come this far. Both Ajmer Singh Sidhu Sir and Baldev Singh Sidhu Sir encouraged me a lot and Ajmer Sir, who died last year had once said one day a boxer from this academy will play in the Olympics. My coaches Balwant Singh Sandhu and Surinder Kaur have really guided me and their contribution is something I can never forget.
Q. Talking of Olympics, ideally, you are setting your sights at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
I cannot take part in the selection trials for the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the age criterion. But I’m definitely looking to make a mark in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

What happens to ‘pro-turning’ Vijender Singh’s DSP job?

 
Indian boxing’s biggest medal hope in any international competition Vijender Singh may have decided to pursue greener pastures beyond amateur boxing by turning professional, inking a multi-year deal with Queensberry Promotions through IOS Sports and Entertainment, but will it be easy for him to carry out the transition from amateur to professional boxing? Professional boxing offers attractive moolah, which is one of the biggest reasons why it entices amateur boxers to take the ‘professional route’. The mega bucks are surely the calling card for boxers, but one cannot deny that professional boxing is more rugged, strenuous and demands more dare-devilry than seen in amateur boxing.
Amidst Vijender’s switch to professional boxing from amateur, one question that has cropped up is what will happen to his government job he landed after winning the country’s first Olympic medal in boxing in Beijing in 2008. It may be recalled that the 29-year-old Bhiwani boxer was appointed Deputy Superintendent of Police (DSP) of Haryana Police by the erstwhile Bhupinder Singh Hooda government.
Although the officially Haryana Police are yet to take cognisance of his move to turn ‘professional’ sources say the ace boxer will have to give up his government job. A government job is handed to a sportsperson for winning laurels on the international stage, which obviously demands representing the country in all international competitions. Apart from the job, the government authorities spent a lot of on a sportsperson’s training, diet and overseas tours. And by turning professional Vijender will have to do without all this. “Look, he was appointed as DSP of Haryana Police for his exploits in the Beijing Olympics among others. Turning professional means he will not represent the country anymore. How can a boxer play professional boxing and hold on to a government job? It is just not possible,” said a source close to Boxing India.
It is learnt that Vijender was on probation with Haryana Police and yet to do his police training. Although Vijender has many backers in the policy fraternity for his boxing exploits, his decision to turn professional hasn’t quite gone down well with local people. “He could have boxed in the 2016 Rio Olympics and maybe after the age of 32-33 could have taken up professional boxing. Turning professional at the age of 29 is something that serves as a disappointment,” said a local boxing official.
Haryana Police has employed other ace boxers like Akhil Kumar, Paramjeet Samota and Vikas Yadav. It remains to be seen as to when Haryana Police takes an official call on Vijender’s DSP job.