Soon after the flight from Glasgow landed in Delhi, boxer Mandeep Jangra called up his mentor Akhil Kumar, currently a part of the national camp in Patiala. While Jangra, a silver medallist at the CWG gushed about the attention he was getting, Kumar sobered him down with a dose of reality. “Get back to Patiala quickly, you have to get back to training,” Akhil told him.
The senior boxer wasn’t being harsh on Jangra, who had just won the biggest prize of his career. For in just five days time the 21-year-old will have to fight for his place in the Indian team once more — this time in the selection trials for the Asian Games.
The continental event in Incheon, South Korea, starts from September 19 but the names of the squad members have to be sent to the organising committee by August 13. What this means is that the Indian boxers, who returned with a haul of four silver and a bronze from Glasgow, will have little time to rest on their laurels. The problem will not occur in the future because the next cycle of competition will be separated by almost a year (CWG in 2018, Asian Games in 2019), but for the present the boxers have a tough task at hand.
“After participating in a big competition, there is a lot of tiredness in the body. A long flight back to India means there is jet lag as well,” says Pinki Jangra, who returned with a bronze in the 51kg category. In addition to the travel fatigue, several of the boxers are returning with injuries as well. Devendro Singh suffered a cut over his left eye in his final bout in the men’s 49kg category, while Jangra had a bruising final match against Scott Fitzgerald of England. It’s uncertain whether Vijender Singh, who said he was competing with an injured ligament in the left hand, will take part in the trials. Most boxers need at least a couple of weeks for cuts to heal and to recover before they can be expected to compete again.
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National coach Gurbax Sandhu admits his boxers have little time to recover, but says there are few options. “Ideally, we would have liked to give some time to the boxers to recover completely, but we cannot delay the trials any further because the last date for sending the names to the Asian Games committee is August 13. It will also be unfair to those boxers who have been training at the national camp if they do not get a chance to qualify for the Asian Games,” Sandhu says.
The boxers returning from Glasgow are at another disadvantage compared to those who look to claim their spots on the national roster. “We have to first acclimatise to the conditions here. Training for a competition is very different from regular training. At Glasgow, we were mostly working on speed, while ahead of the trials everyone else is working on endurance,” says Shiva Thapa, who was seen as a medal prospect at the CWG but lost his first-round encounter.
While coach Sandhu says every boxer at the national camp will be treated fairly, he adds that performance at the Games will not be overlooked.
“If there is a situation that a boxer who had won a medal from the Commonwealth Games is carrying an injury into the trials, then his case will certainly be discussed by the selection committee,” he said.