Indian boxing team heads for Asian Championships
With stars like Vijender Singh deciding to opt out this time, the expectations of medals are not too high from a new-look team.
New Delhi: Indian boxers gave one of their most memorable performance at the last edition of the Asian Championships but with stars like Vijender Singh deciding to opt out this time, the expectations of medals are not too high from a new-look team.
The team will be headed today for the event, starting on Wednesday in Incheon, Korea.
The country had finished a creditable third in the event in 2009, with Suranjoy Singh becoming the first Indian in 15 years to strike gold at the tournament.
Besides, India won a couple of silver medals – through Jai Bhagwan and Thokchom Nanao Singh -- and four bronze medals.
Vijender was among the bronze medallists but arguably the biggest star in the team after his Olympic and World Championship bronze medals.
This time, neither Suranjoy nor Vijender are part of the team as both of them are preserving themselves for the World Championships in September, also the first qualifying event for the London Olympics next year.
The team`s Cuban coach B I Fernandes predicts a five-medal this time given that the team is a mix of youth and experience.
"We should get at least five medals this time. If we are lucky then we might get gold also. It is a big tournament where some of the best boxers in the world are competing," said Fernandes.
"This tournament, for some countries, is an exposure trip ahead of World Championships. So, we might see some very tough boxers in action. But then our boys are also very good and even though this team features some very raw guys, medals can still be expected of them," added the team`s Indian coach Ramanand.
In place of Nanao, this time the squad features Amandeep Singh, a Commonwealth Championships gold medallist and Commonwealth Games bronze-medallist in the light flyweight 49kg division.
In the flyweight 51kg division, made his own by Suranjoy in the past couple of years, it is greenhorn Santosh Harijan who would be trying to hold his own in what is probably the biggest event of his career.
The same goes for an 18-year-old Shiva Thapa, who struck gold at his maiden senior international event in Serbia in May.
Jai Bhagwan (60kg), who bagged a bronze and a silver in 2005 and 2009 respectively, is back for a third time and is hoping to strike gold this time.
Vijender may not be there but the Beniwal clan will have a representative in his cousin Balwinder (64kg) even though he is yet to make an impact since graduating to the senior level in 2009.
In the middleweight (75kg) category, national champion Kuldeep Singh will have huge shoes to fill.
In the heavier divisions, Dinesh Kumar and Paramjeet Samota, who clinched bronze medals the last time around, will be strong contenders in the 81kg and 91kg categories.
The Team: Amandeep Singh (49kg), Santosh Harijan (52kg), Shiva Thapa (56kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Balwinder Beniwal (64kg), Mandeep Jangra (69kg), Kuldeep Singh (75kg), Dinesh kumar (81kg), Paramjeet Samota (91kg), Arun Hooda (+91kg).