Boy from Bhiwani
On Thursday evening, a nervous teenager called up his stenographer dad in Bhiwani, Haryana, to ask if he was happy. "Not just me Vikas," replied his father Krishan Yadav, "You've made the entire nation happy."
Earlier that afternoon, a magnificent nine-minute bout in Guangzhou, China, witnessed the rise of India's new sporting hero. Vikas Krishan Yadav got India its first boxing gold medal after a gap of 12 years, winning the gold a day before his role model Vijender Singh.
In the process, Vikas became the youngest boxer to bag an Asian Games boxing gold ever.
Like many aspiring pugilists in Bhiwani, Vikas, 18, has been keenly following the fortunes of Olympic winner Vijender Singh. In his hometown Bhiwani, India's boxing nursery, not many were surprised. It was another day at office for its boxers, who've won four out of seven medals won by India at the Asian Games.
A bizarre stomach bug almost dashed the teenage champion's medal hopes. On the eve of his bout, Vikas had to keep visiting the loo till late at night. His father blames it on laddoos. "His mom packed laddoos made in desi ghee for him. He had one too many and followed it with some mutton. Still, he did not let his condition deter him and focused on outwitting his Chinese opponent. Perhaps, the affection in his mother's laddoos helped him emerge a winner," says Yadav.
When he returns home next week, Yadav, an employee with the Haryana electricity department, plans to do his bit to pamper his son. "I'll buy him a car. He has been asking for a mobike but I thought it was too dangerous. Now that he is 18, I'll let him choose the make and I will pay for it."
Apart from pestering him for a bike, Vikas hasn't made too many demands from his father. Till his boxing commitments became a priority, Vikas, like his younger sister Kiran, studying Sciences in class 11, was a good student. But once he joined the Bhiwani Boxing Club (BBC), he could not attend regular school. So, Vikas took his class 12 exams through Open School and is pursuing a graduation through correspondence.
What makes Vikas stand out from other pugilists gunning for boxing glory at coach Jagdish Singh's academy is his intelligence. In a way, he is Bhiwani's first cerebral boxer. "He is good at football and carrom, too, but takes keener interest in chess. In fact, the intelligence he gained from chess helped him out-think his opponents in China," says his father.
Perhaps, it was this habit of breaking stereotypes that made Vikas drop a career in the army to pursue boxing.
At the age of 11, in his very first year into boxing, Vikas made the cut for the sub-junior national championships at Noida. After that, Yadav never interfered with his son's passion for the gloved game. At 13, impressed with his victories, the Indian Army selected him to join the Boys Company. Vikas began training at Pune's Army Sports Institute.
Losing his protégé to the army didn't exactly please his coach. So, when Vikas left the army mid-way and returned to Bhiwani, Jagdish was reluctant to take him back under his wings.
"After coming back from Pune, Vikas's parents visited me, requesting me to re-admit him at the centre. I usually don't take back a student who has left me in the lurch. But I couldn't let a huge talent go away. So, I made an exception," recalls the coach.
Jagdish describes his ward as very dedicated, but an introvert. "He used to come here and practise hard. But he hardly interacted with anyone else."
The Asian Games hero, who tried his hand at badminton for seven months before switching over to combat sport, made it a habit of winning a gold every time he took to the ring. In 2007, he won gold at the World Cadet Games and three years later, added the Youth Asian title to his mantlepiece.
After winning the world youth championships in 2010, Vikas suffered a mini setback: he couldn't win a gold in the Youth Olympics. "I was a little disappointed but was looking forward to the Commonwealth Games," he says.
Then, despite winning the best boxer award on debut at the nationals, the selectors ignored him.
"Vikas was crestfallen when he wasn't chosen for the CWG. He promised me he would bring back a gold from Guangzhou," says Yadav. "I am glad my boy kept his word."
Now Vikas has his eyes set on London, 2012. Olympic gold or silver, the brainy boxer is likely to pack a punch.
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