It was a giant leap of faith, which put Sumit Sangwan in the elite league. Short on experience, he was pitted against the best in the senior category during the two-day trials. But when he emerged from the gruelling session at NIS, Patiala, Sumit was the most ‘experienced’ of the lot — and the No. 1 in his weight category.
The victory over Arjuna awardee and World Cup bronze-medallist Dinesh Kumar got him the opportunity to represent the country in the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Kazakhstan in April this year, the last qualification chance for London. He didn’t let the golden opportunity slip, clinching one of the two remaining slots and also winning gold in his maiden appearance in the international arena in the senior category.
“Experience comes with time. The more you fight, the more experience you gain. It makes things a little easier, but never guarantees you victory. The one who throws more accurate punches will rule on that given day,” says Sumit with nonchalance.
“After attaining the qualification mark, I went on two exposures trips — the Czech Republic and Ireland. So, now, I am more experienced and prepared than before. Whatever happens in London, experience will not be an excuse.”
From the early days, the stature of his opponents has never bothered Sumit. Be it his maiden appearance in the National Games or trials for selecting the senior squad, he has always given it his best.
“In the final of the National Games in Ranchi last year, he was facing international boxer Jasveer and I was apprehensive that he might take severe punishment as it was his first appearance in the senior category,” says former boxing great Raj Kumar Sangwan, under whose guidance Sumit picked up the rudiments of the sport.
“Sumit could have been demoralised, but he played his natural game and never looked as if he was appearing in his first bout in the senior category. It was the same case when he took on Dinesh in the trials,” says Sangwan, who has been guiding him since 2005.
“He can land punches from a distance and is lethal with the straight ones. He also has the advantage of height. If he sticks to his game in London, it will be beneficial for him.” Sumit comes across as a reticent guy who follows his coach’s instructions to the hilt and this is where Sangwan says the boxer scores over the others. It’s partly got to do with the difficult family circumstances.
“With my family always encountering financial hurdles, my elder brother, Amit, had to quit the sport. I vividly remember the day he was told to leave boxing and help father till the land. He had tears in his eyes. What I am today is because of his sacrifice,” says Sumit, who hails from Shekhupura village in Haryana’s Karnal district.
Today, Amit has no regrets. “Sumit has made us proud. It feels as I am going to the Olympics,” he says.
“The reason why Sumit matured early”, explains Sangwan, “is because he used to follow the seniors’ training regimen. The moment the training was done with, he would quietly go to his room, not preferring to mingle with the others,” says Sangwan.
“During one of the training sessions, I told the seniors to have sprouts (chana) because of the high protein value. After a few days, I noticed stiffness in his hands and inquired what he was having. I came to know through his roommates that most of the time he was having chana. So, I had to tell him to abstain from it,” recollects Sangwan.