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Boxers turn to almighty to enhance Olympic chances

other Updated: Jul 23, 2008 18:45 IST
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With a billion hopes resting on their young shoulders, India's Olympic-bound pugilists are taking time out of their last minute finetuning to seek divine help in order to live up to the expectations.

Expectations will be high on Vijender Singh (75kg), Akhil Kumar (54kg), Jitender Kumar (51kg), A L Lakra and Dinesh Kumar (81kg) who qualified for the quadrennial extravaganza, making it India's largest boxing contingent ever.

While the quintet are busy practising at the NIS, Patiala, they are seeking divine intervention to be able to do justice to their reputations.

A typical day at the camp starts as early as 0600 hrs and winds off at 2000 hrs with chief coach G S Sandhu and his Cuban assistant B I Fernandes overseeing the proceedings.

Pugilists say turning to spirituality after a hard day at at the camp is also helping them deal with the pressure of expectations.

"Praying to god not just keeps me calm but also gives me a lot of belief in myself. Besides, who knows this might actually help me get that slice of luck that everyone needs to make it big," quipped Akhil, who recently paid obeisance at the Mansa Devi temple in Chandigarh after getting some time off from training.

Jitender, who considers Akhil his mentor, accompanied the Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medallist to Mansa Devi for some divine blessings ahead of his maiden Olympic appearance.

"He came with me because we both don't want to leave any stone unturned. We are working very hard and it is important that we get god's blessings before something as big as the Olympics," said Akhil, fit again after recovering from a wrist injury that has been nagging him for the past few months.

On the other hand, Vijender, who endured a bumpy ride to Olympic qualification, has turned to Lord Hanuman for inner strength and has been paying visits to a temple of the revered deity in Patiala.

"I am a Hanuman devotee. Every Tuesday, I go to a temple to offer prayers. It is a great way to keep the stress in check amid the strenuous training that we are going through," the 22-year-old middle-weight pugilist told PTI.

"I am slightly nervous because the expectations are sky high. And it's not just me, even my parents have also been praying really hard for my success in Beijing. It is my second Olympics and I desperately want to make a mark this time," Vijender, who crashed out of the first round of the 2004 Athens Olympics, added.

Speed, strength and endurance are the focus in the ongoing training camp in Patiala and coach G S Sandhu said he is satisfied with the way his team is shaping up.

"I think our boxers are peaking at the right time. They are all in good shape. Akhil's wrist has all but recovered. Right now, we are focussing on reaction speed," he said, summing up the team's preparations.

The team leaves for Beijing on August 2 and the boxing competition is scheduled to start August 8.