IOA assures support to London-bound athletes
New Delhi: The Indian Olympic Association (IOA) on Friday hailed pugilists Shiva Thapa, Sumit Sangwan and experienced Vijender Singh for qualifying for the London Olympics by virtue of their superb performances in the just-concluded Asian Olympic qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan.
The IOA also lauded Geeta for becoming the first Indian woman wrestler to qualify for the Olympics. Geeta along with two other grapplers Amit Kumar and Yogeshwar Dutt made the cut for the London Games recently at the qualifying event also held in Astana. "The performance of Indian sportspersons in the Olympic Qualifiers has been very encouraging and we are hopeful that at London Games India`s medal tally will be better," IOA acting president, Vijay Kumar Malhotra said in a statement.
"Teenagers Shiva Thapa, Sumit Sangwan and wrestler Geeta not only qualified but also won the gold in their respective categories. Shiva will be the youngest boxer and Geeta, the first woman wrestler to represent the country in Olympics; this in itself is a big achievement," he said. Shiva (56kg) and Sumit (81kg) not just booked their Olympic berths but also fetched gold medals in their respective at the qualifiers. Vijender (75kg), Shiva and Sumit`s qualification in Astana means India will be represeneted by an unprecedented seven-member strong boxing squad in the London Olympics.
The other four male boxers who will travel to the Olympics are L Devendro Singh (49kg), Jai Bhagwan (60kg), Manoj Kumar (64kg) and Vikas Krishan (69kg), giving India its biggest ever presence at the Games. The IOA acting president also said that Vijender has earned a rare distinction of being the first Indian to have qualified for three successive Olympics.
"Presence of Beijing Olympic bronze medalist (Vijender) in the boxing squad will be great morale booster for other six young pugilists," Malhotra said. Malhotra also hoped that more Indian wrestlers will make the cut for the London Games as there are still two more qualifying events — China (April 27-29) and Finland (May 4-6) — left.
He also exuded confidence that good number of badminton players will qualify for this year`s Olympics through the Indian Open which will be played in the capital from April 24. Malhotra said that fans are also expecting a good showing from the men`s hockey team. "Now with former captain Ajit Pal Singh, as Chef De Mission, the team can look up to him for advise and guidance," he said.
Malhotra urged the qualified athletes to stay focussed and train hard as much tougher task lies ahead of them. Apart from archery, aquatics, athletics, boxing, badminton, shooting, hockey, tennis, wrestling, India is also likely to take part in gymnastics, judo, rowing, sailing, table tennis, and weightlifting, subject to qualification. So far 47 athletes, including the 16-member hockey team has made the cut for the London Games.