Battling financial difficulties may have been a common link in both their early lives, but now, Sumit Sangwan and Shiva Thapa have something else in common. On Wednesday, the two teenagers made it - not just to the finals of their respective weight categories at the ongoing Asian Qualification tournament in Astana, Kazakhstan, but also to London.
With this, the number of boxers that will be representing India at this year's Olympics has risen to a record seven; what's more, at 18, Shiva is also the youngest Indian boxer to have made the Olympic cut.Sibling sacrifice
But this day could just as easily have belonged to his elder brother. Financial constraints meant that his family could not afford to let both its sons pursue boxing. Eventually, the elder one was made to sacrifice the sport against his wishes and instead work with his father on a small tract of land.
But, now, Amit Sangwan is a happy man. "Sumit has made us all proud. It feels as if I have qualified for the Olympics. He is bringing my dream of playing in the Games to life," said Amit, who hails from Shekhupura village in Haryana's Karnal district.
In what is his first major tournament in the senior category, 19-year-old Sumit defeated Jordan's Ihab Almatbouli 20-13 to enter the final of the 81kg, one of the weight categories with three quota places - two for the finalists and one for the semifinalist whom the eventual winner had defeated. "After beating the South Korean in the quarters, I was confident of winning an Olympic berth," said Sumit after the semis. "With three months to go, I will work on improving my footwork and technique to increase my chances of winning a medal."
Sumit, who upset Beijing Olympian Dinesh Kumar to get a place in the national squad, is thankful to his brother and father for extending their support. "We come from a humble background," said Sumit, "but my family didn't let anything come in between my training, not even financial hurdles. At times, they even cut down on their own expenses."
Though Assam boxer Shiva too hails from a humble background, but his is a shade better than Sumit's. "Whatever I am today, it's all because of my father. Despite having six children to feed, he never let money be a problem during my training," Shiva told HT after defeating Japan's Satoshi Shimizu.
His father, Padam Thapa, left no stone unturned to see his son donning the national jersey. "I used to be a state-level karate player, but couldn't move ahead because of a lack of vision," said Padam. "But I made both my sons join SAI's Guwahati centre under coach Amar Deka, which helped them reach where they are today." Shiva's elder brother had won silver at the 33rd National Games in Guwahati.
Having entered the final as well as the Olympics, Shiva said: "My entire focus now will be on London. I want to win a medal for all the sacrifices that my father made just so that I could continue boxing."