Indian boxers were expected to deliver a clutch of medals in the Commonwealth Games but the unprecedented haul of three golds was something that even the team itself had not imagined, says national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
Already assured of four bronze medals through Amandeep Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Dilbag Singh (69kg) and Vijender Singh (75kg), the other three Indian pugilists ended on the winning side last night to complete a best-ever haul of seven medals -- two better than the last edition in Melbourne.
Asian champion Suranjoy Singh (52kg) just had to hop into the ring to fetch a gold, while Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Paramjeet Samota (+91kg) notched up the most memorable triumphs of their careers as India completed an all-win finals campaign. Before this, the country had won just two gold medals in the Commonwealth Games through Mohd Ali Qamar (2002) and Akhil Kumar (2006).
An elated Sandhu said the performance was way beyond his own expectations. "I am very surprised with what we have managed to do. At the same time, I couldn't have been more happy. It always better to surpass expectations," Sandhu said after a packed Talkatora Stadium gave each of his wards an ovation to remember. "We had worked hard for these Games but I never thought that we would pull off such a memorable performance. The home support took us through and I am truly overwhelmed," he added.
The campaign was not without its share of unpleasant surprises with Olympic and World Championship bronze medallist Vijender (75kg) and defending bantamweight (56kg) champion Akhil Kumar losing early. While Akhil went empty-handed after being defeated in the quarters, Vijender made a shock semifinal exit. "I can't tell you how the morale was hit when these two lost. They were the favourites for gold and when your most important boys lose, you don't even feel like eating. That was my situation but I am glad that the rest of the kids rose to the occasion and performed," he said.
"I would say Manoj is the find of the tournament because he was in a tough category but showed fantastic footwork and defensive technique to come through successfully," he added.