Experience counts as much as class does. When you are performing at the world's biggest sporting arena, you can't make the mistake of taking anybody lightly. At the same time, being observant about the weakness of your opponent can give you a clear edge. And this was exactly what gave Beijing Olympics bronze medallist Vijender Singh the upper hand over his American opponent Terrell Gausha in his 75kg pre-quarterfinal bout on Thursday. He smartly neutralised Gausha's rapid-fire punches to edge him out 16-15.
The American came out firing and landed a combination of punches in the first few seconds. But Vijender, appearing in his third Olympics, landed effective counter-punches to keep his rival at bay and kept moving around. Gausha got tentative as he became wary of moving into his taller opponent's range. Vijender explained he had observed his rival's technique as Gausha's first-round bout preceded his.
“I saw he was over aggressive, moving too fast and was always charging at his opponent. He tried to do the same thing against me, but I was prepared. Right at the start, I landed a strong punch on the counter and my strategy worked well and it slowed him down,” said Vijender. “Though it was a close bout, if you go by the score-line, once I took a first-round lead (4-3), I was pretty confident the bout was mine. I didn't allow him to charge at me till the end and it paid off.”
With the scores tied 5-5 and 7-7 in the second and final rounds respectively, the first round effort proved decisive.
India's Cuban coach, BI Fernandez, said: “In the second round, Vijender was more effective and threw more scoring punches. According to my calculation, he should have got more points. But now it's immaterial because what matters is victory and we got that.”
Next up will be a familiar foe as Vijender faces former world champion Abbos Atoev of Uzbekistan on August 6 in the battle for a semifinal spot, which will assure him of a medal. He is 2:1 against Atoev.
Vijender beat him in the 2007 Asian Championships but lost in the 2009 World Championship semis. But he had his revenge in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, pushing him to silver and taking home gold.