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Vijender- the name says it all

india Updated: Aug 20, 2008 20:43 IST

Eight years of blood, sweat and a determination to fight the odds sum up Vijender Kumar's roller-coaster journey towards becoming India's first ever boxer to ensure an Olympic medal.

The 22-year-old lanky Bhiwani pugilist, on his second Olympic sojourn, has done what many before him came tantalisingly close to doing. He has managed to make that transition from being a contender to a champion which Gurcharan Singh (Sydney 2000), Akhil Kumar and Jitender (Beijing 2008) could not do.

The dapper six-footer, whose rise to stardom has been nothing short of phenomenal, took up boxing at 14 just to emulate his brother, who is now serving in the Indian army.

Son of a bus conductor, getting financial backing for his passion was a problem of gigantic proportions for him but as luck would have it, he found his mentor in the now-famous Bhiwani Boxing Club, who gave wings to Vijender's dreams.

Dronacharya awardee Jagdish Singh, whose other two wards Akhil Kumar and Jitender Kumar, also made waves at Beijing, spotted Vijender's potential and took him under his aegis.

From there started the hard and often frustrating journey towards Olympic success.

After making an impression at the junior level, Vijender soon rose to prominence in the senior category and he was mere 18 when he first tested himself at the biggest sporting stage of the all.

Athens 2004 was his first tryst with the Olympics and perhaps overwhelmed by the occassion, the rookie teen, who was competing in the welter weight category (69kg), went out in the very first round.

However, within two years of that disappointment, Vijender bounced back to win the silver medal in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games before going up a division to compete in the middle weight category (75kg).

A bronze at the Doha Asian Games within months of the Commonwealth triumph followed and there was no stopping Vijender, who went on to win silver medals at the prestigious King's Cup in March 2007 and the Asian Championships a couple of months later.
He became the national champion in August last year, besides being conferred the Arjuna Award.

However, no journey is complete without its share of hitches and luck deserted him in the first Olympic qualifiers -- the Chicago World Championships -- where he was knocked out in the second round.
The stunning second-round loss in the first Asian Olympic Qualifiers added to the dejection and the once oozing with confidence Vijender, who was also battling a nagging back stiffness, began to wonder what had gone wrong in his so far dream journey.

But like a true champion, Vijender rose from the disappointment yet again and qualified for the Olympics in style by clinching the gold medal at the second Asian Qualifiers.

"I am a lucky chap and somehow things always fall in place for me no matter how gloomy the circumstances," he had said before leaving for Beijing.

But once there he showed that luck was the last thing that played a part in his success as he displayed the courage, composure and technical brilliance of a true champion to do what no Indian boxer had done before him.