Sandhu thanks `face of Indian boxing` Vijender

New Delhi: A sportsperson thanking his coach is an oft-repeated sight but Indian boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu today turned the tradition on its head by thanking his Olympic-bound star ward Vijender Singh.

"I am thankful to Vijender. He worked very hard. He is the face of Indian boxing and is a great motivator. His contribution to Indian boxing is immense," said an emotional Sandhu after returning from the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Kazakhstan on Saturday.

Vijender (75kg), Shiva Thapa (56kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) booked their London berths at the event, joining four others -- L Devendro Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (69kg) -- in an unprecedented seven-strong Olympic squad.

At a ceremony to felicitate the recently-qualified trio of Shiva, Vijender and Sumit, Sandhu recalled the bout in which Beijing Olympics bronze-medallist Vijender made the cut for London, where he would make his third successive appearance at the quadrennial extravaganza.

"That moment is difficult to relive. He was down a couple of points in the opening round. During the break I told him that, he just got up and said `sir, I am not going to leave him now`. And he did just that in the next two rounds," said Sandhu.

"Without Viju, our team is incomplete. I would like youngsters to follow him. Whenever we go out of the country, even other teams ask about him," he added while lauding the former world number one who is also India`s first World Championships medallist.

Sandhu also went down memory lane to recall the times when Indian boxers were not the competitive group that they are right now.

"There used to be times when boxers would throw in the towel against opponents from countries like Cuba. But now they compete with them on equal terms," he said.

Sandhu, who has been with the boxing team for more than two decades now, also charted out the plan for his already-qualified boxers.

"From April 20, we will be in Kazakhstan for a competition-cum-tournament. In June we will go to London for 10 days, come back for a few days before going to Ireland," he said.

The veteran was also a tad disappointed as a strong contender in Suranjoy Singh (52kg) failed to qualify.

"Bad luck followed Suranjoy. The pressure was too much I guess. We felt sad," he said.