India at CWG 2018: Nervous energy helps, feels boxing coach Santiago Nieva

Confidence becomes the buzzword before any major sporting event but Indian boxing's High-Performance Manager Santiago Nieva prefers a bit of nervous energy heading into next month's Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Australia because "that's what gets the best out of everyone".

India at CWG 2018: Nervous energy helps, feels boxing coach Santiago Nieva
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New Delhi: Confidence becomes the buzzword before any major sporting event but Indian boxing's High-Performance Manager Santiago Nieva prefers a bit of nervous energy heading into next month's Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Australia because "that's what gets the best out of everyone".

The 43-year-old Argentine-born Swede would be exactly one year into his job when the Games get underway in Gold Coast from April 4. Indian boxers had claimed four silver and a bronze at the last edition in 2014 and the country stands 12th in the all-time list with five gold, nine silver and 14 bronze medals in all.

In an interview to PTI before the team of eight men and four women boxers left for a pre-CWG training trip to Canberra, Nieva dwelled on India's medal chances and the discontent triggered by a brand new selection policy.

"Yeah, it's going to be my CWG debut. I have been at the Pan-American Games (while competing and later managing Argentina), the Olympics and now the Commonwealth Games which will be followed by the Asian Games. I will have covered everything this year," Nieva said.

Nieva was initially brought in as the coach for male boxers before being elevated to the position of High-Performance Director (both men and women) after the world championships last year.

"I prefer to be a tiny bit nervous before such events because that helps in pulling the best out of not just yourself but also others. So, yeah, I would rather be a little nervous than too confident," he added.

In a departure from convention, boxers for six of the eight men's weight categories at CWG were picked without trials.

A points system, put in place last October, was used to judge their performances starting with the national championships.

The methodology caused a fair bit of heartburn among the boxers and questions about the fairness of the process. Nieva defended the new system and insisted that it would remain in practice.

"The selection method we have followed will continue in the sense that the boxers will continue to be graded on the basis of their performances but wherever there is a need for a trial, we will conduct it. There is no definitive call on that," he said.

"But yes, anybody who wins a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games can consider himself a strong contender for the Asian Games. Of course, it is subject to the boxer being fit and in form, which will be evaluated in the tournaments after the CWG.

"Anybody who can challenge that boxer and prove himself to be as good if not better, he will get a chance too," he explained.

The process followed for selection meant that the likes of world bronze-medallist Gaurav Bidhuri and three-time Asian medallist Shiva Thapa lost their slots to newcomers, who logged in more points through various tournaments.

"I can understand the disappointments. Obviously, when you are not selected, it feels bad. I know that because I have been a boxer. I know how much it can hurt but the challenge lies in picking yourself up and giving it your best shot the next time.

"You cannot be bogged down by one disappointment. That's not what a fighter does. One success or one failure does not define a fighter," he asserted.

India's first and only Olympic medallist in men's boxing, Vijender Singh, was critical of the method followed but Nieva begged to differ.

"I am of the view that performances over a period of time ought to be rewarded and one trial should not form the basis of selection," he said.

India's best boxing performance in the CWG came in the 2010 New Delhi edition when the home team claimed three gold and four bronze medals. Asked how challenging he finds the CWG compared to the world championships last year, Nieva said the world event was "obviously bigger".

"I understand the spotlight is going to be a lot more on the Commonwealth Games than the world championships because of the high media presence and the fact that it is a multi-sport event. But world championships is obviously a bigger draw of boxers we are talking about," he said.