For the first time ever five Indian pugilists have qualified for the Olympic Games. And now the world has started recognising India’s rising standard in boxing.
In another unique first, boxers from other countries are flying into India to practice for the quadrennial Games. Sri Lanka’s lone Beijing qualifier — Anuruddha Rathnayake (51kg) — and four of his teammates are practicing with the Indian team at NIS Patiala for the last few days and countries like Tajikistan and some African countries have requested the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) to allow them to practice with the Indians.
“Earlier we used to request other countries to allow us to practice with their Olympic teams and now, with our boxers doing well at the international level, other countries are approaching us,” said chief national coach G.S. Sandhu.
“All this shows that others have started taking us seriously,” he added. The Lankan boxers will be at the NIS for 10 days. Earlier, only Mauritius used to come to India.
The Algerian squad too was expected to come here but it changed its mind at the last moment due to high humidity. “Many more teams had shown interest to train in India, but we told them about the climatic conditions and they changed their mind. Besides, we gave a half-hearted response to a couple of more teams, as we did not want to let out our final practice strategy,” said Sandhu.
Lankan coach Viasantha Kumara was all praise for the Indian boxers, saying they had come up really well. He said that, with India having world-class coaches and practice facilities, his wards would benefit from the stint.
“In my seven years of international boxing career, I have not seen a country coming here for Olympics preparations. It feels good and gives me immense confidence that our talent is being recognised,” said Akhil Kumar, who is one of the five Indian boxers bound for Beijing.