New Delhi: Gearing up for the first Olympic qualifying event -- the World Championships -- the 10-member Indian boxing team, comprising stars such as Vijender Singh and Akhil Kumar, on Friday headed for France for a 10-day training trip to prepare for the mega-event.
During the trip, the boxers will come face to face with the likely competitors who await them at the September 22 to October 10 World Championships in Baku, Azerbaijan as close to 16 countries are likely to turn up for training in the French town of Bugeat near Nice.
The Indian team, which was picked after trials in Patiala last month, will head straight to Baku from France to compete in the big event, in the previous edition of which Vijender became the first Indian to clinch a medal when he bagged a bronze.
"It is an excellent exposure trip for our team. They will not just get to face competition that they might have to face but will also help them get into competition mode," said national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
"It is basically a training trip. Competition would be limited to a few friendly fights but most important thing is to get acclimatised to European conditions. The weather and conditions would be similar to what we will endure in Baku," he added.
The World Championships will kick off the Olympic qualification process. All boxers, except for the heavyweight (91kg) and super heavyweight (+91kg) category, will have to make the quarterfinals to get an Olympic berth.
Vijender said such a trip would be a new experience for the team.
"Let`s see how things work out. We will know whether it helps by the results we get at the World Championships. It is an experiment and hopefully it would work out well," the Olympic bronze-medallist middleweight boxer said.
Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Suranjoy Singh (52kg) said he hopes to check out prospective competitors.
"It will be good to get an idea of the kind of boxers I would face at the World Championships. It is a good opportunity for me," said the diminutive Manipuri.
Senior boxer Akhil, a former Commonwealth Games gold medallist, is hoping to get good results from the trip.
"Such a trip before an event as important as the World Championships is just what we need to get into the groove. It will help us to get in shape for the main event," said senior boxer Akhil (56kg), a former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist.
The Team: L Devendro Singh (49kg), Suranjoy Singh (52kg), Akhil Kumar (56kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Vijender Singh (75kg), Dinesh Kumar (81kg), Manpreet Singh (91kg), Paramjeet Samota (+91kg).