What does Harisankara Varma, physiotherapist of the Indian boxing team, have to say about the team’s performance at the London Games and the future of the sport?

When Harisankara Varma took charge as physiotherapist of the Indian men’s boxing team towards the end of 2005, the Indian boxers didn’t know much about his role.

For the concept of physio hadn’t caught on then. Slowly and steadily, Varma befriended the boxers, and made them realise the importance of his job, and how he could make them fight better in the ring.

The Sports Authority of India Centre in Patiala turned out to be the place where the Indian boxers started experiencing the benefits of Varma’s routines. “They were injury prone. Through the exercise routines, we made them understand the importance of balance, co-ordination and quick reflexes,” says the 32-year-old.

The upsurge in Indian boxing — in terms of medals won, reveals Varma, started in the 2006 Commonwealth Games. The five medals (one gold, two silver and two bronze) in Melbourne turned out to be a turning point for Indian boxing, which grew from strength to strength.

Good show

After Vijender Singh’s bronze in the Beijing Games, India continued its good show in the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games bagging two gold, three silver and two bronze medals. The good work done by the All India Boxing Federation and its support staff saw an unprecedented seven boxers make the cut in the London Games raising expectations. “From 2006-12, if you consider Indian boxing purely on the basis of results, you will know where we were then and where we are now,” says Varma

Varma credits the turnaround in boxing to teamwork. “It was not a one-man show but a collective effort,” he says. Varma admits the London Games was a disappointment as far as men's boxing was concerned. “Mary Kom’s bronze was like finding water in a desert. We expected Vijender Singh, Vikas Krishnan, Shiva Thapa and Devendro Singh to get medals. Devendro fought hard. The draw was harsh on Vijender and Vikas. But at no stage were we overconfident,” he insists.

The London Games was an eye-opener in many ways for Varma. The workshop on physiotherapy threw light on issues he had little knowledge about; he got to interact with physios from other parts of the globe which helped him expand his horizon. “At a workshop during the Games, there was a lecture on ligament tear called deltoid strain. I used that knowledge to help Devendro who had a problem in his ankle. It worked wonderfully,” says Varma, for whom this was his first Games.

The Australian team for the London Games, reveals Varma, consisted of a huge contingent. “The Aussies had five physios, three doctors and two or three masseurs who occupied one floor. That’s the importance they give to the support staff,” he says.

Greater awareness

According to Varma, the awareness among the Indian sports fraternity about physios has improved. “The future looks bright,” he says.

For the man from Vadakara (Kerala), the journey has been nothing short of a dream. “I never thought I’d be into boxing. I am thankful to Dr. Ashok Ahuja, who introduced me to the contact sport. It was my dream to be part of the London Games. I am very happy India could win more medals than the last time.”