World championship bronze-medalist Shiva Thapa talks about his father’s role and that of his family in shaping his boxing career and why he chased the dream of boxing at the Olympic Games. Excerpts.
What were the challenges you faced as a young boxer?
The toughest part was to try and excel in studies as well as boxing. At times my examination dates would clash with the boxing competition. So I had to choose boxing over giving an examination. Luckily papa had convinced the school authorities to give me exemption from examinations when I had important boxing competitions. Moreover, when I won medals, the school organized a felicitation and that was an added motivation to do well in the ring.
How big a role did your father play in shaping your career?
My father was passionate about making me and my brother, Gobind, Olympians. He is the one who shaped our careers right from the time we were children. He never let financial constrains come in the way of us getting the best possible kit and diet. When we told him that wearing regular canvas shoes for running was resulting in discomfort in the knees, he bought us sneakers. Papa always got us what we needed, he would do some jugaad or the other. But he never said there was ‘no money’ though it was tough to provide for such a big family.
When you were young did you know how big the Olympic Games were?
Papa would tell us that he wanted us to participate in the Olympics. So I knew that it was something which was important to him and as it was his dream, we also started pursuing it. However, once I started boxing, I fell in love with the sport and realised how big a goal I was chasing. But frankly when I started off I didn’t know what the Olympic Games were though papa would often mention it.
Does everyone in your family share the passion your father had?
My mother and my sisters supported my father’s dream. My entire family has been a source of strength and support. We are extremely close and I am blessed to have a family like this.
Did your mother worry about you and your brother getting hurt?
The final bout of the sub-junior nationals in 2005 was telecast on Doordarshan and my mother watched it. I recall how she was happy that I won the title and was named the best boxer. But at the same time she was sad that I was getting punched during the bout. But she understands that it is part of the sport. She is proud of what her sons have achieved in the boxing ring.
What childhood memories do you have outside boxing?
Frankly, our life revolved around the schedule papa made for us and we followed it. I did not have a best friend while growing up because we never had time for anything other than what papa had planned for us. Now, when I get a message on Facebook from those who studied with me it feels good. But I did not have close friends while growing up.
Did you at any time want to opt out of boxing?
No. I enjoyed boxing and looked forward to it. Even when I had fleeting thoughts of doing some masti, I would not lose focus because papa was always there to mentor us and guide us. Only once did I think of quitting and that was because I had lost in the first round of my maiden national level competition in Bhilai. I felt that I could not continue in the sport anymore. However, papa consoled me and told me that it was only my first competition and hence there was no need to be disappointed. Thanks to his advice, I found motivation to continue boxing.