New Delhi: India`s much-hyped male boxers might have drawn a blank in the London Olympics but national coach Gurbaksh Singh Sandhu on Thursday insisted that the country`s pugilists gave their "best performance" in the quadrennial sporting spectacle.
"We have fought brilliantly but have been denied a medal. We were unable to translate good performances into a medal but that does not take away the fact that the boys gave an excellent account of themselves," Sandhu said from London at the end of the seven-strong men`s campaign.
This was the biggest-ever boxing team to qualify from India for the Olympics. They were touted as strong medal contenders but all the seven, including Beijing Olympics bronze-medallist Vijender Singh (75kg), bowed out by the quarterfinal stage in London.
It was left to the sole woman representative, M C Mary Kom (51kg), to get a bronze for Indian boxing.
The Indians fell victim to some controversial officiating during the Games, marred by inconsistent scoring and refereeing.
To start with, the country`s appeal against the close opening-round loss of Sumit Sangwan (81kg) was rejected. Later, Vikas Krishan`s (69kg) pre-quarterfinal win was overturned following an appeal by the rival American team.
The Indians took the matter to Court of Arbitration through a preliminary email, but after getting legal advice they decided to drop the matter.
Next up, Manoj Kumar (64kg) lost a hard-fought contest to home favourite Thomas Stalker and cried "cheating, cheating, cheating".
The Commonwealth Games gold-medallist was defeated despite seemingly dominating the bout and was also hard-done by refereeing as his rival was not warned for what appeared to be excessive bending.
Even in Wednesday’s quarterfinal loss of L Devendro Singh (49kg), the refereeing was questionable as the ring official warned Ireland`s Paddy Barnes a tad too late for clinching.
"Devendro fought exceptionally well and his performance was also appreciated by pro-boxing star Amir Khan who was there in the stands. He said to us that our boy was very impressive," said Sandhu.
Apparently, the International Boxing Association President Dr Ching-Kuo Wu was not too happy with the Indians for lodging protests.
"He has said that the `Indians are protesting too much. They should look at the bouts carefully and then see whether there was a case for protest`. But we have to live with this, accept what has happened and move on," a source in the Indian contingent said on condition of anonymity.
But India were not the only ones protesting at what turned out to be a controversy-ridden Olympics for boxing. The AIBA had to suspend two judges and overturn a couple of decisions amid a furore.
Several teams, including traditional powerhouses such as Cuba and Azerbaijan, complained of being at the receiving end of poor judging.
"There is nothing wrong with the scoring system, it is about the people who implement it. They are the ones who have to be consistent," opined Sandhu.
"But overall, it is disappointing not to get a medal. We fought well in the ring and were appreciated by the fans here but not getting a medal is quite a heartbreak after the high of Beijing," he said.