He is set to become the first Indian boxer to make it to three Olympics but Beijing Games bronze medallist Vijender Singh says he doesn’t want to be known just as a three-time Olympian but as someone who won medals for the country.
“It obviously feels good, but I just don’t want to be tagged as the one who played three Olympics, but as the one who got medals in two,” said Vijender.
The 26-year-old created history when he clinched the bronze at Beijing Games in 2008, and said he is working on his endurance and speed to better his feat this time around.
“I am happy with my preparations so far. We are training hard for the London Games focusing on various aspects of the game, which include endurance and speed training; it involves a lot of running and sprinting among other things,” he said.
“Plus we do weight training, shadow boxing and sparring as well. We are heading for a preparatory training camp in Ireland and later have plans to train in London before the Olympics,” he added.
Asked if he had to change his game after AIBA changed the points system in 2011, Vijender said: “The scoring system might have changed but boxing has not. Whether one is aggressive or sticks to counter attacks, my aim is to score in any way possible.
“I am looking to gain points, be it through hooks, body blows, shoulder attacks or punches to the face. My game is more or less still the same,” he added.
The Bhiwani boxer felt the bronze medal he won four years ago brought about a big change. He is hoping to better his feat in London.
“It was a big change, for me, the sport and the countries outlook towards the sport. It was the first medal in boxing and we really needed something of that sort for the sport.
“Even my fellow boxers’ approach changed, everyone started to believe and I think belief makes all the difference. The journey is still going on and with God’s grace will have a few more medals to show for,” he added.
Ranked number one in his weight category after Beijing Olympics and the Milan World Championships, Vijender is not even in the top 45 currently.
Asked if the ranking affected him, Vijender said: “See, nothing is permanent. Having said that, it makes a difference to know that you are number one in the world or you are in the top five. But it does not drive my game in any way.
“I was number one in the world at one point of time, now someone else is and maybe someday my name will again feature in the top list. It is a derivative of your performance in some tournaments, that’s how it works.”
Vijender also walked down memory lane and spoke about his first appearance in Olympics at Athens.
“It was really a big deal; I was just a teenager and experiencing the biggest sporting event in the world. I knew very little or nothing about the Olympics. Having qualified was itself a big achievement for me and then being there was quite overwhelming.
“Although I lost in the opening round, but the fact that I fought well was enough for me to take away from Athens. All in all it was a big learning experience,” said Vijender, who lost to Mustafa Karagollu of Turkey in the first preliminary round in 64kg.
In 2006, Vijender had won a silver medal at Commonwealth Games, gold at South Asian Games and bronze at the Asian Games and the Indian described it as a special year.
“Well that was a special year and I was growing as a young boxer. I was full of aggression and energy, never caring to see who the opponent was, just getting into the ring and boxing. But yes those medal and achievements were instrumental in my development as a boxer,” he said.
“I was more confident and a mature athlete after those tournament. The Asian Games in particular, the loss against 2004 Athens Games gold medallist, Kazakhstan’s Bakhtiyar Artayev was a big inspiration for me.
“It was a great bout, although I lost, but it was with a small margin. I was really appreciated for the kind of fight that I put up against a top class boxer. It was a big morale boost and I was happy with my performance,” he added.