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Indian boxers aim for more Olympic berths

other Updated: Jan 24, 2008 18:30 IST

PTI
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An easier field and familiar conditions await Indian pugilists as they take another shot at qualifying for Beijing Olympics in the first Asian qualifiers starting on Friday.

Only one Indian boxer - A L lakra (57kg) - has made the cut for Olympics after reaching the quarterfinals of the first qualifying event, the World Championship in Chicago last year.

The eight-member team which participates here would be hoping to book a few more berths before the second and final qualifying event in Astana, Kazakhstan from March 15 to 25.

The task, though easier than the World Championship challenge, is no stroll in the park as 141 boxers from 28 countries are chasing 19 Olympic spots over 10 weight categories, from 48 kg to 91 kg.

The criterion for Olympic qualification here would be reaching the finals.

Spearheading the Indian challenge would be 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games gold medallist Akhil Kumar (54kg) and Doha Asian Games bronze winner Vijender (75kg).

Akhil is returning to the ring after a lengthy lay-off caused by a wrist injury, which forced him out of the National Championship, making him ineligible for selection of the World Championship.

"I was unlucky to miss the World Championship but god has given me another chance and I intend to make full use of it," Akhil said.

Vijender, on the other hand, has to get over the disappointment of missing Olympic qualification in Chicago. The Arjuna awardee was knocked out in the second round there.

"The World Championship disappointment is behind me and I am focused on this event. I am confident of qualifying as the field is relatively smaller here," he said.

Olympian Diwakar Prasad, who was forced to shift to the 60kg category after Lakra's qualification in 57kg, is another Good bet. But it remains to be seen how he adjusts to the new challenge in the changed weight category.

Spunky Haryana-lad Jitender Kumar (51kg), who bagged a bronze medal in one of the preparatory tournaments for Beijing, is also an exciting prospect along with Dilbag Singh (69kg).

The Indian team:

Amandeep Singh (48kg), Jitender Kumar (51kg), Akhil Kumar (54kg), Diwakar Prasad (60kg), Dilbag Singh (69kg), Vijender (75kg), Dinesh Kumar (81kg).