The spring in Vijender Singh’s step is understandable.
Leaving behind memories of a first round exit in Athens 2004, he is looking forward to step into the ring at Beijing.
With a move from lightwelter to the middleweight category and a morale-boosting points win over Athens Olympics best boxer Bakhtiyar Artigev at AIBA President’s Cup under his belt, the Indian has emerged as one of the serious contenders in the five-member squad, on his second Olympic appearance.
He and South Korean Deok Jin Cho made the grade at the Asian qualifiers held in Kazakhstan. Thailand’s Angkam Chomphuphuang is a strong opponent in the middleweight category, apart from Artigev defending his Olympics title.
“That (win over Olympic champion Artigev) makes me believe this Olympics is going to be significant in my life,” said Vijender. A strapping boxer with fast hands and sharp reflexes, quick and decisive in the ring, Vijender has proved the ability to rattle more experienced rivals.
There is more to Vijender than just hope. He put in punishing hours in the ring to hone his skills and develop confidence after the 2004 experience and when the opportunity arrived in the Olympic year to put his craft to use, after a training stint in Germany, he punched his way through Russian Artem Chebotarev’s defence for the title.
In this mood and form, Beijing arrives at the right time to give the Bhiwani boxer a chance to realise his dream of a career in professional boxing.
Source of inspiration
For now, cash incentives from the government for the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games medals are a source of encouragement to keep fighting, besides career opportunities in organisations like the Haryana Police which offered him the post of an Inspector.
Vijender is one of four civilians in the five-member Indian boxing squad heading for the 2008 Games, all four trained by Jagdish Singh at the now well-known Bhiwani Boxing Club.
Inspired by his brother to try out the gloves, the 23-year-old is set to leave his mark at Beijing and accomplish what no other Indian boxer has done before — banking on form and ability to seize the moment.