India have talent, hunger to win more Olympic medals: Dunne
India's new high performance director on how he wants to set the right processes in place to allow the boxers to shine
The performance of the Indian boxers at the Tokyo Olympics, especially the men’s team, drew flak given the expectations. Lovlina Borgohain was the only saving grace. The dismal show led to changes in the coaching staff that saw both the foreign high performance coaches – Rafaelle Bergamasco and Santiago Nieva – quit.
Bernard Dunne now takes over the responsibility to lead Indian boxing to success at the Paris Olympics. Dunne, who was appointed India's boxing high performance director, is a former professional Irish boxer of repute. He is coming after an impressive tenure as high performance director of Ireland boxing. Dunne will be overseeing the preparation of both Indian elite men’s and women’s teams and he will have to hit the ground running since it's less than two years to Paris. The qualification for the Olympics begins next year with the Asian Games being the first stop.
Giving a peek into his philosophy, Dunne says his job would be to help the athletes maximize their potential. To be sure each and every change that Dunne wants to bring would be focussed on preparing them for the Paris Olympics.
“I am getting to know the coaching staff, support staff, and importantly the athletes and speak to them about my philosophy. My job is to support them in every way I can to maximize their potential,” said Dunne in an interview.
Currently in Patiala for the last two weeks, Dunne is working with the Indians teams ahead of the Asian Championships, getting to know the boxers and also the structure in place.
“It's been a lot about observation for me right now. I would get to know more about the athletes and how they prepare during the Asian Championships in Jordan (Oct 30). Next year’s priority will be qualifying for the Olympic Games and winning medals at Paris Olympics.”
In his five-year stint, Nieva laid a huge emphasis on tactical and technical knowledge, on strength and endurance and put a structure in place for high performance. It showed impressive results with success coming India’s way at every significant event.
“Satniago is really good coach, of the highest quality. Every country wants to win medals at the Olympics. It is tough.”
Dunne’s focus would be on finer aspects that can enhance performance at the highest level.
“What we need to do is to get the process right, the preparation right to get to correct performance. I would like to see how the athletes prepare themselves. To be more successful, the performance piece has to be perfect. I am talking about complete preparation like understanding styles, and understanding why I want an athlete to run a certain distance or lift a certain weight. They need to rest their bodies -- people need to understand that rest is sometimes important."
It will certainly put a lot more onus on the athletes to know and understand their bodies and training regimes.
“Boxing is always a dominant part of the programme but science, nutrition, strength and conditioning, physiology, psychology also have a big part to play in making sure the athletes are ready to compete at the highest level.”
“It is like a jigsaw puzzle. When we get those little pieces together, the process of how we do things – everything else takes care of the job.”
It is the philosophy that Dunne says helped him take Ireland boxing to success at world and Olympics.
“We got the right process in place to make sure we maximize that. The athlete has to understand the value of eating the right food, drinking water, and making sure they have rest. These are all common sense but a lot of athletes don’t do it. A lot of athletes sometimes do too much training. I know change can be difficult to accept but my job is to help Indian boxers understand and believe in these changes that can help them improve their performance.”
Dunne rates Indian boxers very highly. He has seen them during training sessions with the Ireland team.
“I have seen Indian boxers compete. Their work ethic is really great. Hard work is a key ingredient to success but also smart work is important.”
“I believe that the talent is here. I believe hunger is here. India should have had more than three medals at the Olympic Games given its history and population. The Boxing Federation of India and SAI have told me that they will support me and give me the opportunity to create the right atmosphere and right structure around the team. If I am allowed to do my job correctly, I can see this team having great success.”