In 2008, Vijender booked a ticket to the Beijing Olympics at the very last qualification tournament held in Astana, Kazakhstan; a few months later at the Games, he won a historic bronze.
Perhaps it was belief in the adage ‘history repeats itself’, or just a strong sense of déjà vu; either way, before leaving for Astana for what was, like four years ago, his last shot at Olympic qualification, Vijender was quite confident.
“There’s no pressure (of it being the last chance to qualify) on me. The same thing happened before Beijing. Getting in at the last moment in Astana proved rather lucky for me, so I hope that, like four years back, I make it to the podium in London too,” Vijender had said.
Now, Vijender has booked his ticket to London by making it to the semifinals – there are four quota places at stake in the 75kg weight category – of the ongoing Asian qualification championship on Sunday.
In his quarterfinal bout, he defeated Mongolia’s Chuluuntumur Tumurkhyag, 27-17, to become the first Indian boxer to compete in three Olympics.
“Like I had said before, Astana is lucky for me, so I was confident of making it. Now that I have achieved the qualification mark, my entire focus is on the Olympics,” said Vijender. “If all goes well, it will be an improved showing by India in London.”
Trailing by two points after the first round, the Olympic medallist kept his calm, covering up lost ground in the second and went on to win the bout by 10 points.
“It was a mature performance by Vijender. Despite trailing, he never lost focus or stopped attacking. By the final round, his opponent was no match for him,” said chief national coach GS Sandhu.