Asian Games silver medalist Manpreet Singh and Commonwealth Games gold medalist Paramjeet Samota have been Indias best boxers in the heavy and super heavy-weight categories respectively for some time. But when the pair leave for the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Astana,Kazakhstan,they will have to be at their best because only one quota place is available,which means they have to win the event.
We have seen success in the last few years but all that counts for nothing if we do not qualify for the Olympics. We missed at the World Championships last year but have performed well at the Asian level and it is a boost. We trained in Kazakhstan early this year and it has helped us a lot to understand central Asian style, says Samota.
The pair will look to make their mark in categories which have seen only sporadic Indian participation. Lakha Singh (heavy-weight) made it to Atlanta Games in 1996 while Gurcharan Singh missed the light-heavy weight bronze in Sydney 2000 by a whisker.
The Indian boxers also trained in Cuba last year before sparring with boxers from France,Russia,Kazakhstan and Tajikistan in Kazakhstan. Manpreet believes the acclimatisation and familiarity with the competition would help,though the berths available through the event are at a premium.
Most of the medals I have won came in Europe or Central Asia. We know there is only one quota for Asia here in our categories but we have defeated most of the boxers earlier. It will be very tough for us but we hope to give it our best shot, said Manpreet. National coach GS Sandhu also believes the experience will come handy. Its a matter of one bout. Both of them have earlier reached finals at the Asian level. Samota is a very determined boxer and I remember how we had lost hope after the first round of the CWG final but he came back to win gold. Manpreet has sound technique and works on tiring out the opponent. After missing a medal at CWG,he came to me and said I will win a medal in Asian Games. A month later,he did, said Sandhu.