The popularity of a sport can be gauged from the level of expectations from players at an international outing. Our performance at the Beijing Olympics — a bronze and two quarterfinalists — popularised the sport in the country, and with a series of good performances in the Asian Games and World Championships (2009, 2011), people had hoped we would better our performance in London.
Somehow, the men did not live up to expectations, but Mary Kom’s bronze made up for the disappointment to an extent.
We have four years to the next Olympics and if we want the country to sway to our exploits, we have to prove ourselves at every step leading to Rio.
Before that, next year’s World Championships is important and a good showing will help us project ourselves as a major force at the next Olympics. Apart from regular coaching camps, which we had en route to London, we have to concentrate on more foreign trips and competitions. Given the harsh summers here, we should plan camps in cooler climes so that the boys can give off their best.
We are at par with other powerhouses, but what makes the difference between making or missing the podium is scientific backup. No longer can we afford to ignore this facet.
From diet to intake of supplements, we resort to hit-and-miss methods. Rather, there should be a full-time team for this. Toiling in the ring is not enough; there should be a world-class scientific support system for the boxers, and only a combination of this will give us medals at the highest stage.
Mary Kom has opened the doors for Indian women boxers, and with time we will see more of them making the country proud at the Olympics. Boxing in India was largely confined to men, but Mary’s exploits in London have changed the scenario and the federation should build on this.
Not only should the authorities provide women boxers with the best facilities at the grassroots, the focus should be on increasing quality boxers at the senior level. This way, we’ll have more Mary Koms.
The writer is a Beijing Olympics bronze medallist.