New Delhi: The big shots of Indian boxing may not have clicked at the World Championships but national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu on Tuesday said the likes of Vijender Singh and Suranjoy Singh made up for the debacle by inspiring and quite often training those who qualified for the London Olympics from the event in Azerbaijan.
Faced with tough opponents in the initial rounds itself, Asian Games gold-medallist Vijender (75kg) lost in the first round, while Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Suranjoy (51kg) exited in the second round.
But the duo put behind their own disappointment to inspire their teammates, four of whom -- L Devendro Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (69kg) -- qualified for the Olympics.
Among them, Vikas clinched a bronze emulating Olympic hero Vijender`s feat two years ago in Milan.
Sandhu said the two established boxers took the debacle in their stride and focussed on helping their teammates.
"I give credit to Vijender for keeping the morale of the team up. I am sure he will come back strongly in the Asian Olympic Qualifiers next year. And no praise is enough for Suranjoy. He was there with Devendro all through, helping him and training him. He forgot about his own defeat and helped this young boy immensely," said Sandhu.
Devendro too acknowledged Suranjoy`s contribution in his good performance.
"He is the reason I have qualified for the Olympics. He was looking after everything, from my diet to training to inspiring me. He was there with me all through," said Devendro.
Vikas, who grew up idolising the pin-up boy of Indian boxing Vijender, said, "Vijender has been my idol, he motivates me a lot."
India finished 10th among 113 countries in the event and Sandhu said the fine performance is a result of a process that started in 2007.
"Today, my boys are so motivated that they don`t go home after trials, they stay at the camp and train. They are also becoming very aggressive and our boxers now intimidate their rivals. We are no longer taken lightly," said the long-time coach.
One example of this new-found spunk is Devendro (49kg). The 19-year-old rose from nowhere to beat established names like CWG bronze-medallist Amandeep Singh and former youth world champion Thokchom Nanao Singh in the trials to win a place in the team for World Championships.
Not much was expected of him but he stunned many with his lion-hearted effort to qualify for the Olympics.
"My life has changed for good in a matter of months. I have worked very hard for all this since starting boxing in 2003 but still it is like everything happening too fast.”
"In fact, after reaching the quarterfinals and qualifying for the Olympics, I was wondering in my hotel `what has happened`. I was just so happy," chuckled the boxer, who has already identified footwork and precison-punching as the areas to work upon in the coming months.