Vijender unfazed by pressure of expectations

New Delhi: He rose from anonymity with a bronze in Beijing that was as good as gold for Indian boxing but set for an unprecedented third Olympic appearance, Vijender Singh wants to remain oblivious – at least to the pressure that comes with being one of the country`s biggest stars at the greatest sporting show on earth.

The 25-year-old, incidentally also the nation`s first medallist at the World Championships (a bronze in the 2009 Milan edition), is a former world number one and is unarguably the brightest name in a seven-strong Indian boxing contingent for the London Olympics.

He is well aware of the expectations from him but Vijender (75kg) would rather not think about those. "I can understand there are expectations but I cannot keep thinking about them. My job is to focus on training and leave the rest to God. I prefer to shut my mind to everything else ahead of major competitions," the Haryana lad told PTI.

Vijender has earned his Olympic berth the hard way, failing in his first two attempts before finally making the cut in the third and last chance – the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in April. But he prefers to pick the positives from the process instead of harping on the agonising wait he endured.

"It was all a part of the learning process. It made me tougher as a competitor. Yes, there have been low points but that`s part and parcel of being an international athlete. You can`t escape such phases. I am just glad that I came through," said the strapping six-footer.

"Now the aim is another Olympic medal because that is what I will be remembered for. Being a three-time Olympian is fine but it would be better with a two-time medallist tag along with it," he said.

Vijender is also the seniormost member of the Indian boxing squad and is prepared to take over the role of a mentor after being mentored himself in the past. "I have been in that stage, when you want to be taken care of by a senior and I have been taken care of in my early days. Now I am ready to provide that to the youngsters who are going with me," said Vijender referring to teenagers like Vikas Krishan (69kg), Shiva Thapa (56kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg).

"Olympics is a big stage and I would take all the responsibility that comes with being a senior boxer and ensure the youngsters are at ease," he added.

Four years since Beijing, a lot has changed in Indian boxing and in Vijender`s life too. He is a married man now but the boxer says that his relationship status has not affected the time he spends training ahead of any major tournament he is picked for – not just Olympics. "The work ethic is the same. I give the same amount of time to my training with the same coaches. Nothing has changed," he said.

Already an icon, Vijender would be immortalised further if he gets a medal in London and although it is a tall feat to achieve, one of small-town Bhiwani`s biggest contribution to Indian sports says the adulation can be earned only by scaling mountains.