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New year: Best’s wishes

India’s top sportspersons share with The SUNDAY EXPRESS their goals & targets as they get ready for 2015

PV sindhu, Sushil kumar, virender singh, jitu rai India’s top sportspersons

Super Series is the big one and I want to crack that: PV Sindhu

Badminton, World No. 11

PV Sindhu PV Sindhu

HITS: World Championship bronze; Grand Prix title at Macau; Asian Championship bronze; Uber Cup and Asian Games team bronze; CWG individual bronze.

Misses: Couldn’t cross quarterfinals of a Super Series; Couldn’t get past Saina Nehwal; Couldn’t score her first win against Intanon Ratchanok against whom she is now 0-3.

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I hope I achieve a lot more this year than I did in 2014. I have a rankings target for the coming season, and I’d like to be in Top 5 or Top 6 by the time 2015 is done. I played in many tournaments in 2014; I did give my best. But I will look for tournament victories so those automatically translate into a higher ranking.

I want to win Super Series titles this year. I have a few Grand Prix Gold titles under my belt but the Super Series is the big one that I want to crack.

The All England is a very prestigious event, and its importance is highlighted by the fact that only Prakash Padukone and  P Gopichand amongst Indians have managed to win it. It’s probably the second biggest for Indians after the World Championships. All of us are trying to win it, but it’s tough competition and I’ll have to really play well to win it. I have my sights set on it specially. But the season will start with Malaysia so I want to begin well.

Frankly, every tournament is important so I would want to win medals at any event I play.

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At the World Championships I’ve done well, but now two bronze are not enough. It’s time I aim for the gold. Again all the top players save their best for this one, so it’s tough to talk gold but I know I can do it.

I’d rate my World Championship semifinal – though I won bronze – as a ‘miss’ in 2014, and would like to aim higher and not be satisfied with just a bronze. Similarly, at Asian Games and Commonwealth Games against the Canadian, I know I shouldn’t have lost those matches so I’d like to not go down in such games.

The preparations for most tournaments remains more or less the same, and the week before we start training a little less. Fitness is very important this year, and the coach will take a call on how many and which specific tournaments I play in, so I’m fresh and ready to give my best each time.

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I’m really happy with how I negotiated the two important matches at the World Championships – pre-quarters and quarters, but yes it’s been a roller-coaster 2014 with the number of thrillers I’ve played. Hope 2015 has more clinical wins, and fewer heart-attacks in the third set!

It’s an interesting time in women’s singles with most girls playing very varied styles of badminton. Everybody is a different type of shuttler and that’s a challenge, frankly. But the Taipei girl Tai Tzu Ying has been playing real well and will be a challenge beyond the Chinese. She has some good strokes and is tricky to figure out.

I’d like to score wins over everyone, though.

Balance boxing and Bollywood: Vijender Singh

Boxing, 75 kg

Vijender Singh Vijender Singh

HITS: Glasgow Commonwealth Games silver

Misses: Asian Games medal owing to injury

MY start to the new year has been ideal. I woke up early, went to the gym and spent the entire morning working out. This is a very important year in my career, and fitness will be the most crucial factor in determining how well I do. And I am talking not just about my boxing career, but also my Bollywood ambitions.

I’ll be honest enough to admit that I won’t be restricting myself to the boxing ring. Last year, I did a movie and a TV show. I tried new things and I hope to continue the same way this year as well. That doesn’t mean boxing has taken a back seat. I am training as hard as ever and after a mixed 2014, I am determined to do better this year. My main target this year is the World Championships. It’s the toughest competition, difficult even than the Olympics. At the Olympics, you end up playing only five fights but at the Worlds, you have to compete in seven or eight bouts. So you need more stamina, strength and endurance to win a World Championship medal.

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More importantly, the qualifying criteria for the Olympics have changed, which make the Worlds an even more significant tournament.

Under the new rules, qualifying for the Rio Games will get tougher. According to the International Boxing Association’s new format, only 23 quota places will be up for grabs at the Worlds instead of 92 earlier. The other spots will be decided via the World Series Boxing and AIBA Pro Boxing events apart from the continental qualifiers.

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Because of the ban imposed on India by AIBA, we do not have enough representation in WSB and APB. That means  we will have to make the most of the limited places available via the World and Asian Championships. So doing well in Doha in October will be crucial.

Another important decision I have to make is regarding my weight category. I have been fighting in middle-weight for many years now. Sometimes, I get the urge to move up a category. But a lot of factors will go into the final decision. I will have to see which are the tournaments where I can try it, who my opponents will be, how my body reacts to it, etc. So I will sit with my coaches and take a final call.

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Over the next three weeks, we have the national championships and the National Games. These two domestic tournaments will be crucial for me to gauge my form and fitness. Hopefully, I’ll begin the year on a good note and build on it as it progresses.

Get into the groove for Rio: Sushil Kumar

Wrestling, 74 kg

Sushil Kumar Sushil Kumar

HITS: Glasgow Commonwealth Games gold medal

Misses: Not really. Skipped a lot of tournaments, including the Worlds and the Asian Games

After the London Olympics, injuries and niggles had slowed me down last year and the Commonwealth Games was the only major tournament where I had taken part. My decision to skip a few tournaments was also a conscious decision as it helped blood in young wrestlers. If you had noticed, the 22-year-old Praveen Rana was given the chance to prove his worth in my place in events like the Asian Games.

But that was last year, this year is very important for me. The qualifying tournaments for the 2016 Rio Olympics are scheduled to take place and our first major tournament of the year, the Asian Championship, will be held in Doha, Qatar, from May 6 to 10.

It is still some months away so right now I am only concentrating on the technical aspects like my moves on the mat. For the next 15-20 days I will be continuing with this routine only. It is only later that I intend to shift to power and stamina training regimen.

Once that is done I will be participating in at least two-three tournaments to get into the competition mould. Going to Colorado Springs is an option as we have been training there for three-four years, but we have to wait for a real plan.

The exposure trip will be key to our qualifications. Those are the tournaments where all the experimenting will take place. How much to attack, when to hold back, counter moves — you can train for these but the real test happens only during a bout. One thing we have to make sure is that we don’t get injured during these preparatory tours.

Also, I have to add some more kilograms. Right now my weight is hovering around 67-68 kg. Ideally, my off-season weight should be around 78 or so . But I will get there soon.

The win at the Glasgow Games, though good, was my first in the new weight division. But it did not serve me any great purpose other than everybody feeling happy that I had won the gold. You learn more in defeat because you analyse it as to what went wrong and where. The only good thing to come out of the event perhaps was the point that my coaching staff made — that was to gain more weight.

 It’s going to be a funny, quiet year for me: Jitu Rai

Shooting, World No. 4 (50m pistol)

Jitu Rai Jitu Rai

HITS: Commonwealth and Asian Games gold, World Championship silver, Maribor World Cup silver (all 50m pistol), Maribor World Cup gold, Munich World Cup silver, Asian Games bronze (all 10m air pistol)

Misses: Nothing much. Perhaps, a World Championship gold.

It’s been nearly two weeks that I last lifted a pistol. And I don’t think I will return to proper training for another couple of weeks at least. I need that much time off to rejuvenate and refocus.

Last year was a blur; packed with one big event after another. It was a year that was mentally and physically exhausting. But at the same time, it was a special one. I had been shooting well since 2013. Back then, however, I did not know how to make the final push for the medal. I used to choke. The pressure of the deciding shots got the better of me. But it changed in Maribor last year during the World Cup. I tasted blood. Then on, there was no looking back. I won medals in every tournament I entered.

It’s all a result of self learning. I taught myself how to keep calm under pressure; to disengage myself from the match scenario and focus solely on the target in front of me. I worked on my breathing technique. There were coaches to help me fine tune these things but it was more a case of learning through experience. And I am glad it yielded desired results.

But it’s in the past now. Not for a minute have I thought I’ve done something special. If I start thinking like that, I will get complacent and my performances will start going downwards.

More than the medals, though, I was glad to record really good scores. And that’s going to be my target this year as well. 2015 is going to be a funny year for me. After the constant rush of competing in major tournaments last year, this one is going to be a quiet one with not much happening.

Of course, there will be Olympic places at stake but I have already earned my quota. So this year I do not have any major challenges as such. But I have set a few targets for myself.

The most important is to improve my scores. I shot 550s consistently in 50m pistol last year but I need to start making amends to my game keeping in mind the Rio Olympics. Seven out of the eight qualifiers for the 50m pistol final at the London Olympics had scores of 560 or more. I managed those scores just thrice last year.

I’ve set really high standards for myself for the simple reason that in the absence of major tournaments, these targets will keep me motivated. At the same time, I have to take things easy and ensure I do not burn myself out. Last year was intense, this one has to be about winding down so that I slowly begin my ascent, come 2016.

First published on: 04-01-2015 at 02:00:39 am
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