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Multi-tasking & making a difference

No other sport has attracted so much attention from Indian as boxing in Beijing Games. Our boxers have been the talking point of the fraternity. Indraneel Das reports.

india Updated: Aug 22, 2008 00:45 IST
Indraneel Das

No other sport has attracted so much attention from Indian as boxing in Beijing Games . Our boxers have been the talking point of the fraternity.

"They respect us and now and don't take us as pushovers," said Vijender on Wednesday.

This is not accidental. Three men, two of them foreigners, shaped the difference in attitude. They are: BI Fernandes of Cuba and South African physio Heath Mathews and Indian national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.

Multi-tasking Heath Mathews, the Mittal Champions Trust physio, has been instrumental in preparing the boxers. For our fighters, he is physio, psychologist and nutritionist rolled into one.

The physio has been working on the boxers' fitness for almost four months now. The ice bath he introduced to enable boxers recover fast has worked wonders. "He has been instrumental in recovery. Without him my body would not have been this flexible," said Vijender.

Even Fernandes, who was crying hoarse for years for a good physio, is happy that now he can concentrate more on technique than recovery. “Physiotherapy is a very specialised field. I have been asking for physios and masseurs for while. But with Heath coming into the support staff, I could focus on purely on boxing," said Fernandes.

How things are different

Now the coaches and the physio have sessions with each of the boxers. Though no one is a qualified psychologist, Heath's sports science background and Fernandes and Sandhu's experience have helped prepare the boxers for each bout.

"We have sessions with the boxers. Then we try to flush out all the negative elements from their mind and try to build on their confidence," explained Mathews. "So now the boxers are very confident. They don't think about whom they are playing. "

The nutritionist

Mathews, who also tried his hand at fast bowling for Durban, was ecstatic on Wednesday. He ran wild and said: "This is good for Indian boxing." When he first joined the camp in Patiala in May he was shocked to see the boxers’s diet. "The intake of the fat content used to very high and the value of nutrition was not good," he said. The NIS Patiala where all the elite athletes train doesn't have a nutritionist.

"Boxing, where one has to keep his weight under check without losing power, must have the best nutrition. So I have chalked out a plan for them that worked to reduce their weight without diminishing their power."

Dream has come true: Sandhu

Bhiwani: Chief national boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu is a happy man today. The dream he conceived during the 1996 Atlanta Games came true in Beijing when three out of the five boxers in the Indian squad made it to the quarterfinals and later on Vijender confirmed a medal in the sport on Wednesday.

“What we had been dreaming for decades, finally came true…the boys have given an Olympic medal to the country,” said Sandhu from Beijing. “Before going to Beijing, our best performance in the sport was by Gurcharan Singh, who reached the quarterfinal in the 2000 Sydney Games Olympics,” he added.

For Sandhu, this is his fourth successive Olympics as national coach. “After the 1998 Asian Games gold by Dingko Singh we had high hopes from him as well as from Gurcharan, but unfortunately he missed the medal.”

Asked about the success formula at Beijing, Sandhu said, “This time we employed a unique style of practice. We used to involve all the five Olympic qualifiers in group discussions. Besides, I had involved six more coaches during the final stages of preparations.

With inputs from Saurabh Duggal