What was Vijender Kumar’s immediate reaction when he was assured of a medal after winning his quarterfinal bout at the Beijing Olympics? Before coming out of the ring, he thanked Ram, his friend-cum-roommate at the National Institute of Sports (NIS), Patiala, and his other pals Manoj Kumar, Jai Bhagwan, Bunty and Ravi for their support and faith in his ability.
“They are the whole world to me and without their support it would have been difficult, rather impossible, for me to win the medal. Whenever I felt low, they motivated me. They kept telling me that I had the potential of winning an Olympic medal and I did it,” said Vijender while talking to Hindustan Times from Beijing.
“When I lost in the second round of the World Championship in Chicago last year and failed to earn a berth for the Olympics, I was very upset.
“But they told me that the World Championship was not my target. They said my ultimate aim was winning an Olympic medal and I would definitely win it,” he added.
For the past four years, Vijender shared a room with Ram in the Dhyan Chand hostel at the NIS. Manoj was his sparring partner during the national camp for the Beijing Games.
Jai Bhagwan and Bunty are his boxing mates from his early days at national camps.
“When I saw Vijender for the first time at the NIS at a national camp, my first impression was he did not look like a boxer. He had a very childlike face. But when I saw him practising, I realised that he was an exceptionally talented boxer,” said Ram.
“I still remember the days at the NIS. He was very hardworking and sometimes used to practise thrice a day,” Ram added. From the start of his boxing career, Vijender was wary of damage to his face of the kind which could alter his looks. “Just a week before the team left for Beijing, Vijender got a scratch on his face during a practice bout with Manoj.
Vijender was so worried that till it was not properly healed he was after Manoj’s life. His scratch remained a hot topic of discussion for almost five days,” said Ram.