New Delhi: Surprised and elated in equal measure after becoming the only boxer to be picked for the Arjuna Awards this year, the fast-rising Mandeep Jangra says he never expected to come this far given that not many, apart from his mentor Akhil Kumar, had faith in him.
Speaking to PTI from Italy, where the 22-year-old is currently training for the upcoming Asian Championships scheduled later this month, Mandeep said he is more happy for his mentor than himself.
"He has more faith in me than anybody else and I am happy that his faith is being proved right. I never expected this award so early in my career but because Akhil bhai and his wife Poonam, who is my formative coach, I have managed to deliver because of their hard work," Mandeep said.
"Not many thought that I was good enough to compete at the highest level and I am happy to have proved the detractors wrong."
Akhil, a Commonwealth Games gold-medallist and a former Arjuna awardee, has mentored Mandeep since 2005 after being impressed by his talent in a camp in Pune.
Mandeep is currently a silver-medallist in the Asian Championships besides being a Commonwealth Games silver winner.
The welterweight (69kg) boxer would be attempting to better his silver at the Asian meet in the upcoming edition to be held in Bangkok from August 26. With the dates of the event clashing with the National Sports Awards ceremony on August 29, Mandeep won't be able to collect the trophy personally.
"When Akhil bhai recommended my name for the Arjuna this year, I was scared that if I don't win, he would feel more sad than me. But I am glad that has not happened," said Mandeep.
"Since I won't be able to collect the award on August 29, I want Akhil bhai to collect it on my behalf. I would take it from his hands after coming back," he added.