Saturday, October 31, 2015

Archers deserve media attention: World Cup silver medallist Abhishek Verma

He is humble to the core and only wants to brag about his archery skills through power-packed performances on the world stage. Abhishek Verma does not give you the impression that he is experiencing any ‘top of the world’ feeling after becoming the first Indian men compound archery to not just reach the Archery World Cup Final but win a silver medal in the marquee event that recently concluded in Mexico City. The 26-year-old Delhi boy, who has been coached by Lokesh Chand Pal throughout his archery career, is now gearing up for the Asian Archery Championship kicking off in Bangkok in the first week of November. The Income Tax department employee spoke about archery and much more in an exclusive interview.


Q You became the first Indian men compound archer to not just reach the Archery World Cup Final but also manage a podium finish, bagging a silver medal.

Winning a medal in any event gives you a huge amount of satisfaction and the Archery World Cup Final in Mexico was no different for me. For me winning a senior national crown is as important as winning a medal in a World Cup. I cherish every medal I win be it at the national level or international level.

Q It takes a lot of effort to first of all reach the Archery World Cup Final, where only the cream of the world archers qualifies from the four stages of World Cup events.

Look, there are four stages of Archery World Cups held every year. I did not get any medals in the World Cup Stage 1 and World Stage 2 held in Shanghai (China) and Antalya (Turkey). I won a gold medal in the World Stage 3 held in Wroclaw (Poland) and did not play in the World Stage 4 held in Medellin (Colombia). My points are decided on the basis of the three World Cups I played as I missed the fourth one and accordingly I was ranked fifth and won the right to play the Archery World Cup Final in Mexico – I was among the seven who qualified for the Archery World Cup Final besides one from the host nation. Reaching the Archery World Cup Final is far from being a piece of cake and I’m happy with my effort.

Q You lost to Turkey’s Demir Elmaagacli in the final – how you assess your final match?

The final match against the Turkish opponent was hard-fought with no quarter given no quarter asked for. It could have gone either way but I gave my best shot and wasn’t too disappointed with my effort as I lost 143-145. There was a strong breeze at the venue, which did affect my game but this is not an excuse to say why I lost.

Q Tell us a bit about your semifinal match against Mario Cardoso of host nation Mexico, who was having a giant-killing run having upset the top seed Mike Schloesser in the quarterfinals.

Well, it wasn’t easy playing Mario Cardoso as he had ten thousand Mexicans rooting for him at the venue. I was in superb form that day as I shot a perfect 150 and was not at all perturbed by the cheers of home supporters in their own language.

Q You had bagged a silver medal in the individual compound event and a gold medal in the team compound event at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. You lost to Iran’s Esmaeil Ebadi in the individual compound event at the Asiad but beat him to win the gold in the in the World Stage 3 held in Wroclaw.

Look, when I lose I try to learn from my mistakes and work on them for future tournaments. Winning two medals in the Asiad was memorable for me and beating Ebadi in Wroclaw was a moment to rejoice. I don’t see it as exacting revenge just because I lost to him at the Asiad. Winning and losing are part and parcel of a sportsperson’s life.

Q You starting training for archery in 2004 under coach Lokesh Chand Pal – your one and only coach so far. What are key attributes of you coach you admire the most?

He is a fabulous coach. I have been working under him since the age of 14 till date. He is one who will ensure you are not down in the mouth when I lose. Similarly, he never allows to get too excited with a win, basically ensures my feet is firmly planted on the ground.

Q Just going into the Archery World Cup Final in Mexico, you had won your third consecutive senior national crown in individual compound event held in Meerut.

I had a great run in the 36th Senior National Archery Championship. I also have fond memories of creating national record of logging 709 out of maximum 720 points in the 2014 Senior National Archery Championship in Delhi and also winning the crown in the 2013 edition in Jamshedpur.

Q There was a time when talented archers used to be confined to a few pockets – do you think that trend is changing now?

Archery is fast spreading across the country. Talented youngsters are coming up from all parts of the country, which is good for the sport. All Indian archery needs is more media support and our guys are consistently performing but the coverage of the sport leaves a lot to be desired.

Q The Archery Association of India (AAI) was derecognized by the Sports Ministry in 2012 violating the age and tenure guidelines of the sports code. Has it affected our archers?

Not really! The SAI has taken all care to ensure the training and preparations of archery for national international competitions are not hurt.

Q The Asian Archery Championship is happening in Bangkok in November – you must be really pumped up for this event given the highs you have scaled in recent past.

I’m keen to do well – at the 2013 Asian Archery Championship I had won three gold medals – in team compound, individual compound and mixed compound events.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Indian weightlifters hitting the right notes

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Indian weightlifting appears to have hit the right notes with a power-packed performance at the recent Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship in Pune. Save for a runner-up finish in the junior boys’ category, the hosts emerged triumphant in all other categories.

Clearly, the robust showing of the Indian lifters couldn’t have come at a better time as the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship is being held in Houston, USA from the third week of November. “It is heartening to see our weightlifters perform well in the recent Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship. It will do a world of good to the confidence of our weightlifters considering the fact that the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship is coming up next month,” says Indian men’s weightlifting team coach Vijay Sharma.

Of course, the ‘competitive stature’ of the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship is far different from the World Weightlifting Championship. India grabbed a slew of medals at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games but returned empty-handed at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. “Asian Games is tough because it has the presence of some the world’s top weightlifters from countries like China, Kazakhstan and North Korea – all these nations were the top medal winners in the last World Championship in Kazakhstan,” he explains.

Sharma, a former weightlifter, who had donned the nationals colours between 1990 and 2000 and employed with Railways since 1993 believes in being realistic about India’s prospects at the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship in USA. “We are not expecting our weightlifters to make a podium finish. We hope our weightlifters put up a good performance and qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. Olympic qualification is our main focus.”

Indian men have not won a medal at the World Weightlifting Championship for many decades now. How optimistic is he about ending the medal drought in big events? “Our weightlifters are improving a lot and there is progress to be seen. We are hoping to seal at least three Olympic berths from both men and women categories, remember we had two lifters in the 2012 Olympics with one finishing in the top seven,” he quips.

The 14-member Indian weightlifting contingent will leave for USA on November 9 for 2015 World Weightlifting Championship, which will kick off at Houston from November 20. One hopes the Indian weightlifters give a good account of themselves in the big-ticket event.

Have ammuntion to win Olympic medal: Shiva Thapa

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Shiva Thapa is feeling on top of the world after becoming the third Indian men boxer to win a medal at the World Championship. The 21-year-old Assam boxer, who missed out on an Olympic berth after losing the box-off bout narrowly to a Belarusian opponent, has three more tournaments lined up in coming months to seal his Olympic berth. The bronze medal in the World Championship is a ‘significant high’ for Shiva, who had endured disappointing campaigns in the 2014 Asian Games and 2014 Commonwealth Games.

The country’s youngest Olympic boxer now sets his sights on not just qualifying for the 2016 Olympics but also winning the coveted gold medal in the marquee event. He talks about his Olympic aspirations and much more in an exclusive interview.


Q: How does it feel becoming the third Indian men boxer to win a medal at the World Championship?

: Obviously, it feels great to win a medal in a tournament as big as the World Championship as the world’s best compete there. No quarter is given and no quarter is asked for and its cut-throat competition and I’m glad to win a medal at the World Championship after Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan Yadav won similar bronze medals in the 2009 and 2011 editions.

Q: You boxed really well to reach the semifinals of the World Championship, where you lost to Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev and then you subsequently you lost to Belarus’
Dzmitry Asanau in the box-off bout. How would you assess these two bouts?

: I was up against a very aggressive boxer in Murodjon in the semifinals and I gave my best shot, but it so happened that he had the last laugh. But I was little surprised that I could not convince the judges in my box-off bout against Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau. The Belarusian was trying to while away his time in the bout and was adopting more caution than aggression – I believe I had done what was needed to win the bout, but I guess it was not my day.

Q: You did not have a great 2014 – you lost to in the second round at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games and you lost in the quarterfinals at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. You must be happy to come out with such a strong performance in the World Championship.

: I was little disheartened at missing out on a podium finish in both the Incheon Asian Games and you Glasgow Commonwealth Games as I was confident about bagging a medal. I ran into eventual Commonwealth Games champion and current world champion Michael Conlan of Northern Ireland. The bronze medal in the World Championship is highly satisfying after the disappointments of 2014. I just hope we get to box for the country and not under AIBA by the time the 2016 Olympic approaches.

Q: You became the youngest Indian boxer to play in the Olympics in London in 2012 – how much has Shiva Thapa changed as a boxer?

I think I have become mature and richer with all the international experience I have gained all these years. I have now played two World Championships, two Asian Championships, one Olympics, one Asian Games and one Commonwealth Games and playing against different opponents all these years has taken my boxing to a higher level. There is a lot of self-belief in me than before.

Q: How has modern amateur boxing changed over the years with changing rules implemented by AIBA?

: I think there is no place for dormant boxers who like to backpedal and move around the ring without the intent to throw punches and score points. Aggression is the buzzword – you don’t have any option but to go for the kill – attack more and ensure punches land in the desired areas.

Q: International boxing is increasingly seeing upsets. World rankings are made mockery of by lower ranked or lesser known boxers. Your thoughts.

: Boxing is a sport where the outcome at most times is decided in the closing stages. It’s all about how a boxer performs on a given day in those three rounds. Any boxer can have a bad day in office and it is never easy to dominate all the time. Look at Murodjon – the world championship silver medallist and the guy I lost to in the semifinals had lost in the first round of the 2014 Asian Games and then there is Cuba’s Andy Cruz Gómez – another formidable boxer who was defeated in the quarterfinals of the recent world championship by Dzmitry Asanau – the guy to whom I lost in the box-off bout.

Q: You registered a famous knockout over Morocco’s Mohamed Hamout in the pre-quarterfinal bout – coach Sandhu said it was the first time in his coaching career he had seen a knockout by an Indian boxer.

It was a hard-fought bout and in the closing stages I threw a left punch which knocked him down and paved the way for my win. I was happy that my coach got so much joy from this win.

Q: A bronze medal at the World Championship must convince you that you can go for the gold in the 2016 Olympics – for which you have to qualify first?

Surely a bronze in the World Championship is an indication that I have ammunition to win an Olympic medal in bantamweight category (56 kg). 2012 Olympic gold medallist has turned pro and the competition in my weight category will now between Northern Ireland’s Michael Conlan – the current World and Commonwealth Games champion, world championship silver medallist Uzbekistan’s Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Cuba’s Andy Cruz Gómez and Belarus’ Dzmitry Asanau. Having boxed against them I would know what to expect from them in the Olympics.

Q: Olympic qualification is your next focus area.

I have a chance to seal my Olympic berth through the World Series of Boxing as well as through two Olympic qualifying events to be held next year. I’m pretty bullish about qualifying for the Olympics.

Q: Finally, you must be cherishing spending time at home after being on the road for a long time.

Absolutely! I have been away from home for eight months now either playing in tournaments or training in national camps. My mom is a great cook and I will try gorge on her sumptuous chicken fried rice and bhindi bhaji among others. I will be spending a few days during Durga Puja in Guwahati before I join the camp again.

Need to clock 9.10 to hope for Olympic medal: Lalita Babar

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

She may not boast of massive international experience when it comes to participating in the 3,000-metre steeplechase event but ask anyone concerning Indian athletics, they will tell you that Lalita Babar is India’s big medal hope in athletics at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

The 26-year-old girl from Satara, who took up the 3,000 metre steeplechase event only in March 2014 after doing 5,000 and 10,000 metres races for a long while, besides winning a hat-trick of Mumbai Marathon titles (2012-14), sprang a big surprise winning a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games on her international debut, and then followed it up with a gold medal at the 2015 Asian Athletic Championship in Wuhan.

The Central Railway employee, who captured public imagination when she became the first Indian women runner to reach the World Championship final, spoke about her Olympic plans and much more in an exclusive interview.


Q: Tell us a bit about your early days – how do you get hooked on to athletics?

: Well, my first love was kho-kho - I played this sport for two years between 2002 and 2004 and then realised that it is hard to shine in a team event like kho-kho and soon switched to athletics. Gradually I made new strides in long distance running in events like 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres and made my senior debut in 2008 in these events.

Q: You had won various medals in 5,000 metres and 10,000 metres and even won a hat-trick of Mumbai Marathon titles from 2012-14. How did the switch to steeplechase happen?

I started training under our Russian head coach Dr Nikolai Snesarev in 2010 and it was then he suggested that I should take up steeplechase as he felt I would be handy in this event and that’s how it all started. I got used to clearing hurdles and water jump clearance and first took part in the 2013 National Open Athletic Championship and won gold medals in the National Inter-State Championship and Federation Cup in 2014.

Q: The 2014 Incheon Asian Games was your senior international debut in the 3,000 steeplechase event and yet you went on to bag a bronze medal for the country  -you also broke the national record of 2010 Asiad gold medallist Sudha Singh.

: I had no international experience when I went to Incheon. I had no idea how international steeplechase races are run on the big stage. I did not quite expect to make a podium finish with a timing of 9:35.37 and thought with a bit of international experience I could have won the gold as I finished narrowly behind China’s Li Zhenzhu (9:35.23) and gold winner Ruth Jebet of Bahrain (9:31.36).

Q: Sudha Singh has consistently won medals in the 3,000 steeplechase event ever since she gold at the 2010 Asian Games. You pushed her to fourth place in the 2014 Asian Games. What’s your take on the healthy competition between both of you?

: She has done well for the country but I don’t think of any competition as I know I’m in my best form and hope to make my country proud in the 3,000 steeplechase event. As for now, I’m focused on doing well for the country.

Q: You won the gold medal in the 3,000 steeplechase event at the 2015 Asian Athletic Championship in Wuhan, China, where you broke your national record as well as the games record with a timing of 9:34.13.

: Look, I was pretty inexperienced on the world stage when I took part in the 2014 Asian Games but for the 2015 Asian Athletic Championship I was more than ready to give my best as I had a fair understanding of how to run in international steeplechase races. I pushed 2014 Asian Games silver medallist Li Zhenzhu of China to second spot in the final in Wuhan.

Q: You missed younger sister’s marriage earlier this year when you were tied up with your camp programme after winning the gold medal at the 2015 Asian Athletic Championship in Wuhan.

: Yeah, my sister got married in June and I had to give this happy event a miss because of my training. I hope all these sacrifices pays off in the long run.

Q: Breaking records is becoming a habit for you – you once broke your own personal record of 9:35.37 by nearly seven seconds clocking a timing of 9:27.86 at the 2015 IAAF World Championship in Beijing, in the process becoming the first Indian women runner to reach the final of the big-ticket event.

: The 2015 IAAF World Championship was a big learning curve for me as I got to see how all top athletics prepared for the 3,000 steeplechase event. I have also learnt on how to pace my race and conserve energy for the final burst as I observed medal winners from Kenya, Tunisia and Germany in Beijing. I was excited to reach the final of the World Championship on my debut and finished eighth ahead of Asian Games gold medallist Ruth Jebet of Bahrain, who finished 11th.

Q: Indian runners practice on synthetic tracks whereas the big events like the World Championships and Olympics are held on Mondo tracks – do you think there is a need to upgrade infrastructure in India?

We don’t have Mondo tracks in India as yet and if we have it, it will boost our athletes. We practice on synthetic tracks, which are also quite a few in number, especially the good ones. I think we need indoor tracks as it will help Indian athletics in a big way. In India, we can’t train outdoors at various times of the years either due to rain or high temperature and having an indoor track can be hugely beneficial for our athletes.

Q: Having clocked a timing of 9:27.86 at the 2015 IAAF World Championship in Beijing, what kind of timing you think will ensure you an Olympic medal?

: I think to win an Olympic medal one has to clock 9:10, something which is not beyond me. I just hope I stay injury-free and keep training hard and get adequate international competition exposure in the run up to the Olympics and if all goes to plan, I can do wonders for the country.

Confident of qualifying for Rio Olympics: Wrestler Babita Kumari

This piece was published in Sportskeeda

Babita Kumari dished out her best at the 2015 World Championship in Las Vegas but fell in the quarterfinal hurdle to a formidable Chinese opponent – in fact, she was the lone Indian woman grappler to reach the quarterfinal stage even as most of her team-mates made early exits. The 2012 World Championship bronze medallist is now setting her sights on qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics after none of the Indian women grapplers could secure Olympic berths at the 2015 World Championship. The 25-year-old Haryana girl, employed with Haryana Police as an Inspector, talks, amongst other things, about the Bollywood movie Dangal, in which Aamir Khan is playing the role of her father Mahavir Singh Phogat in an exclusive interview.


Q Among all the eight women wrestlers, you are the only grappler to make it to the quarterfinal stage of the 2015 World Championship even as some experienced and talented girls like your elder sister Geeta Phogat, Vinesh Phogat and Navjot Kaur made early exits. How would you sum up our women grapplers’ performance?

Every wrestler goes into a World Championship with the hope of making the country proud with a podium finish and all our grapplers tried their best at the World Championship but their best was not enough this time around. Every nation comes well prepared for the World Championship and I think there was no shortage of effort from the girls.

Q You defeated wrestlers from Colombia, Spain and Germany before going down to China’s Zhong Xuechun in the last eight stage. What went wrong for you in that quarterfinal bout?

No bout is easy in the World Championship and all my three wins were achieved with a lot of effort. As for my quarterfinal bout against Zhong I think it was an evenly fought contest but she was strong in defence. I tried to be aggressive but she countered it with her defence.

Q The 2015 World Championship had Olympic berths on offer. None of the Indian women grapplers sealed Olympic berths in Las Vegas. Do you think the Olympic qualifying test will be tough?

I don’t think so. We have a few more tournaments through which we can qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics. We are upbeat about qualifying.

Q You had won a bronze medal in the 2012 World Championship in Canada along with your elder sister Geeta Phogat and later a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games among other medals. Which has been your most satisfying medal-winning moment so far?

I think both medals – bronze at the 2012 World Championship and gold at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games are my most cherished medal-winning moments.

Q You won a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games and a few months later lost in the semifinals of the 2014 Asian Games.

Competition in Asian Games is much tougher than Commonwealth Games as wrestlers from China, Japan and Kazakhstan are counted among the world’s best. At the Commonwealth Games, there is good competition but not like Asian Games.

Q Japan’s Saori Yoshida has been enjoying a dominating presence in your weight category – she won three Olympic gold medals, thirteen world titles and four Asian Games gold medals. Your thoughts.

She has a lot of experience and has won so many medals over the last twelve years or so. I played her once and lost. She has got terrific speed backed by her enormous international experience.

Q The Pro Wrestling League is coming up this year – do you think it is the best thing to happen to Indian wrestling?

Absolutely! Indian wrestling will get a big boost from the PWL. Many top international grapplers will be taking part and it will be a great exposure for the Indian wrestlers.

Q Women wrestling is concentrated in a few pockets in India – do you think there is a need for the sport to become popular across the length and breadth of the country?

Women wrestlers are coming up from Haryana, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi and Maharashtra. I’m sure the PWL will play a big role in generating more interest among youngsters of other states to take up wrestling. I’m confident that women wrestling will spread across the country.

Q A Bollywood movie ‘Dangal’ is made on how your father Mahavir Singh Phogat groomed his four daughters for wrestling and helped them reap laurels for the country.

We are excited and happy to know that actor Aamir Khan will play the role of my father Mahavir Singh Phogat. It is good that the sport of wrestling is getting promoted through this movie.

Early exit of Devendro in World Boxing Championship hugely surprising

This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian men’s boxing contingent were expected to find the ‘going tough’ at the 2015 AIBA World Championship in Doha but what came as a huge surprise for Indian boxing fans was the ‘unexpected’ and ‘stunning’ opening round defeat of Laishram Devendro Singh.

The 23-year-old Manipuri boxer enjoys a world ranking of number 3 in the light flyweight category (49 kg) and was widely tipped to make at least the semifinals. He shot into prominence with a quarterfinal-finish at the 2011 AIBA World Championship in Baku, in the process sealing an Olympic berth and caused more than a flutter romping into the quarterfinals of the London Olympics before losing to Ireland’s Paddy Barnes.

The opening round loss of the Army boxer was hard to swallow as much was expected from him. Call it what you may, Devendro did not quite get a favourable draw and ran into European Championships silver-medallist Harvey Horn of England in the first round. The bout was closely fought as the 20-year-old Harvey was not daunted by the brutal reputation of Devendro. The Indian, who likes to play with an open guard, was caught napping by the counter-punching from Harvey eventually losing the bout by split decision as the Englishman did the most important thing of seizing the first round.

“I did not get to watch the bout but Devendro’s first round defeat was shocking for all boxing lovers of the country. We expected him to march through the early rounds and his opening round exit was very much on unexpected lines,” says former Asian Games gold medallist and Olympian Dingko Singh.
Dingko, who captured the public imagination when he toppled the world number three and world number five boxers en route to gold at the 1998 Bangkok Asiad, believes Devendro’s ‘all out aggression’ has to be backed by proper technique. “Devendro is a hugely talented boxer but I think his only weakness is that he tries to be aggressive sans proper tactics. There is nothing wrong in being aggressive but one has to mix aggression by reading the opponent and play accordingly,” the 2000 Sydney Olympian observes.

From the highs of reaching the quarterfinals of the 2012 London Olympics to winning a silver medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and a quarterfinal exit at the 2014 Asian Games, one is left wondering whether Devendro’s game has hit a downward spiral. “I’m sure he will bounce back. More international exposure will help him as only training hard does not allow you to know where you stand. Match practice and sparring against quality boxers are a ‘must’ for improvement. He has to strategize properly before every round and play each round with a plan,” Dingko quips.

Devendro may have missed out on an Olympic berth at the 2015 AIBA World Championship in Doha, but still all doors are not closed for him as he has two continental events lined up next year to make the Olympic cut. One hopes Devendro learns from the recent World Championship experience and comes out all guns blazing in future.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Poor boxing refereeing must be nipped in bud

It’s a malaise that Indian boxing hasn’t quite been able to get rid of. Forget the administrative mess, the sport has suffered a lot over the years and wings of many promising careers have been clipped thanks to ‘grossly poor decisions’ from referees and judges across the country’s domestic boxing circuit. Be it the Senior Nationals, National Games, Federation or any other top-flight boxing competitions, ‘unbecoming decisions’ from judges and referees have always been the order of the day.

Of course, boxing is a pretty fast sport and the outcome of a lot of bouts is decided in the closing seconds. No doubt, one-sided bouts do happen and make it easy for referees/judges to take a call, but it’s the down-to-the-wire bouts that often attract controversy and also smack of foul play and favouritism. There has always been a constant criticism of favouritism showered on boxers by referees and judges in the Indian domestic boxing circuit.

To put it bluntly, there are allegations that the fate of boxers are decided from which part of the country they belong to. For instance, boxers from the Northeast get a raw deal most times - a point emphasized by iconic MC Mary Kom. The star Manipuri pugilist has openly stated that there is a prejudice against pugilists from the Northeast. Clearly, when a five-time world champion and the country’s first Olympic women’s boxing medallist says this publicly with tears in her eyes, it does make for investigation.

A lot of times some of these ‘influenced’ results are swept under the rug simply because the respective state to which the boxer belongs does not have any kind of “muscle” to take on the “wrongdoers”. “Boxers from Manipur, Mizoram and Assam have been donning the national colours from the Northeast. They are high on talent but on most occasions a lot of close bouts goes against them, which gives us a feeling that a raw deal is meted out to them. Of course, it is difficult to prove in precise terms, but yes refereeing and judging in Indian boxing circuit have to improve a great deal,” said an official associated with Northeast boxing for a long time on condition of anonymity.

Mary Kom’s latest tirade is a stinging reminder how boxers from the Northeast have been facing this “refereeing bias” for a long time now. One hopes the Sports Ministry and SAI take serious note of what Mary Kom said and devise a mechanism to improve the standards of refereeing/judging so that such unwanted allegations are a thing of the past.
2014 world championship silver medallist Saweety Boora puts her perspective on the same. “In boxing a lot of bouts are decided in the closing seconds. Even if this is unfair refereeing no boxer can come out openly against it for fear of repercussions. I don’t think it’s a large-scale problem but definitely refereeing has to show more improvement as boxers work really hard to reach a certain level and such unfair judging can cost a boxer dearly.”

A former national coach agrees boxing refereeing is an issue that needs to be nipped in the bud. “I cannot agree that referee would hand out unfair judging based on from which state a boxer hails, irrespective of whether he is from Manipur or Haryana. Poor refereeing affects boxers from all states and it should be treated as a generic problem, not as something meant to victimize any boxer of any particular state.”

Friday, October 9, 2015

Bullish about doing well in world championship, says weightlifter Satish Kumar

Weightlifting runs in the Sivalingam family. It was not really difficult for Satish Kumar to pursue an interest for weightlifting as his father Sivalingam, a former lifter, who had won numerous medals at the national level, offering him enough motivation to take up the sport with his dad working as his first coach.

The 23-year-old Vellore-born weightlifter, who had won a gold medal at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, is a four time national champion in the 77 kg category and is keen to do well in the upcoming Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship to be held next week in Pune as well as the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship to be held in USA next month.

Satish, who works as a Senior Clerk with Southern Railways, Chennai, spoke about the upcoming World Weightlifting Championship and much more in an exclusive interview.


Q Must be excited about the upcoming Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship, which is starting in Pune next week.

There is nothing like performing in front of the home crowd and the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship will be an opportunity to make our weightlifting lovers proud. I have twice won the gold medal in 77 kg in the 2012 and 2013 editions in Western Samoa and Malaysia. It will be nice to make it a hat-trick of gold medals in the Commonwealth Weightlifting Championship.

Q You have been enjoying a dominating presence in the 77 kg category ever since you made your senior international debut in 2011 in the South Asian Championship in Nepal. What’s your take on your domestic competitors in your weight category?

There is a great deal of competition in my weight category – K Ravi bhaiya (Kumar) is a fierce competitor and there are others. I won a silver medal in my debut senior nationals in 2011 and then went on to win four gold medals in the next four senior nationals. I think I have coped well in this category despite all the competition around.

Q Tell us a bit about your biggest moment – winning a gold medal in 77 kg at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

It was hugely satisfying to win a gold medal for my country at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. I had to compete with seasoned Katulu Ravi Kumar, who is an Olympian as well as Australia’s Francois Etoundi (AUS) among others and lifted a total weight of 329 kg to claim the gold medal.

Q You could not build on that gold winning effort in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games as you were not keeping well after reaching Incheon.

I had fever and could not take part in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games. It was disappointing for me but such things are not in my control.

Q It is generally felt that weightlifters need adequate recovery time to be in best shape for an international event. The 2014 Asian Games was held barely a month after the 2014 Commonwealth Games. Your thoughts.

Weightlifting is a sport where you need proper recovery time for any lifter to perform at his best. Ideally, any event should have a gap of two months or so but I agree having two such big events in two months can be highly demanding for any weightlifter.

Q You made your debut in the 2014 World Weightlifting Championship in Almaty, Kazakhstan. How was the experience?

I finished 22nd in the 2014 World Weightlifting Championship. The event was held less than two months after the 2014 Asian Games. As you know, I had to pull out of the Asian Games owing to a bout of fever, it affected my game as I thought that if I did not had that fever issue in Incheon I would have easily finished in the top-15.

The 2015 World Weightlifting Championship will be held in Houston, USA in November. How do you assess your chances?

I’m fully fit and have been training hard at our national camp in Patiala. I recently had an exposure trip to Egypt and will be travelling to USA much in advance before the 2015 World Weightlifting Championship. The 2016 Rio Olympic qualifying berths are for grabs and I would have to be at my best and finish in the top 15 and lift a total weight of 340. If I touch 340 it should assure me an Olympic berth.

Q You have been consistently featuring in the 77 kg category since you burst on to the senior level in 2011. Who are the most formidable lifters in your category.

China dominates the 77 kg and the current world and asian champion are Chinese. Lifters from Egypt, Kazakhstan and Cuba are also so strong.

Q Where do you think Indian men weightlifters are lagging behind as compared to the world’s top lifters given the fact the Indian men have not won a medal in the world championship for a very long time now.

I do not think that Indian weightlifters are lagging behind the world’s best. It is just that these top lifters have a proper structure in place in their respective nations. Look at China for instance, they have ‘A’, ‘B’ and ‘C teams and their lifters have a personal physios and masseurs. In India, we do get these facilities for major events only and it will nice if we also get more personal attention at national camps. Having personal physios and masseurs will be big boost to Indian weightlifting.

Q Finally, you dad played a big part in your weightlifting journey.

I owe a lot of success to him – he himself was a weightlifter who won many medals at the national level and was employed with the Army and now is retired. He was my first coach – I trained at the Atlas Weightlifting Training Centre adjacent to my house and took off from there.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Satish, Sarjubala attain highest AIBA rankings

India’s ace boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav, who got the better of Hungary’s Zoltan Harcsa in the opening round of the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship, is ranked number four in the middleweight category (75 kg) as per the latest world rankings released by the International Boxing Federation (AIBA). Vikas had only recently taken full charge of the middleweight category after star pugilist Vijender Singh turned pro earlier this year. Vikas was the last Indian to win a medal (a bronze) at the AIBA World Boxing Championship. Uttar Pradesh’s Satish Kumar, who is employed with Army, has the highest ranking of three in the super heavyweight category (+91 kg)).

Laishram Devendro Singh, who lost in the opening round of the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship in Doha, is ranked number seven in the light flyweight category (49 kg), while Shiva Thapa, who reached the second round of the 2015 AIBA World Boxing Championship, is ranked number seven in the bantamweight category (56 kg).

Among the other Indians, Gautam Bhiduri is ranked 38th in the flyweight category (52 kg), Vikas Malik is ranked sixteenth in the lightweight category (60 kg), Manoj Kumar is ranked number fifteen in light welterweight category (64 kg), Sumit Sangwan is ranked fourteen in light heavyweight category (81 kg). Indian men boxers have no rankings in the welterweight category (69 kg) and heavyweight category (91 kg).

Among the Indian women boxers, 2014 AIBA World Boxing Championship silver medallist Saweety Boora has the highest ranking of number two in the light heavyweight category (81kg), while another silver medal winner of the 2014 AIBA World Boxing Championship, Sarjubala Devi is ranked number three in the light flyweight category (45-48 kg). MC Mary Kom is ranked number nine in the flyweight category (54 kg). Pavitra is ranked number five in the light welterweight category (64 kg), Pooja Rani is ranked number thirty in the middleweight category (75 kg) and former world championship bronze medallist Kavita is ranked number five in the heavyweight category (81+ kg). 

“Going by the rankings, the likes of Vikas, Shiva, Devendro, Mary Kom, Sarjubala Devi and Saweety Boora are definitely big prospects for India though many weight categories did not have Indian boxers among the ranking list,” said a former national level boxing coach.

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