CHENNAI: IN the last three editions of Asian Championships, there have been several Indian boxers who have medalled. The likes of Vikas Krishan, a two-time medallist, have switched to pro boxing while several others have lost relevance. But one thing remains a constant. Shiva Thapa.
Thapa had won gold in Amman in 2013. Two years later, he had secured bronze in Bangkok. Then he had gone on to add a silver medal at Tashkent in 2017.
On Tuesday, he reached unprecedented heights by assuring a fourth straight medal in the ongoing meet in Bangkok.
And he made it look easy, beating host nation’s Rujakran Juntrong 5-0 in the men’s 60kg quarters. “He was outstanding, really skilful and outboxed his opponent with some fast punches. He applied pressure from the word go and never offered his opponent to make a comeback,” Santiago Nieva, India high performance director, observed. Record run aside, this could not have arrived at a better time for the two-time Olympian. He had been far from outstanding in the last one year or so.
After a string of average shows and injuries in early 2018, he was demoted and lost his spot to national rival Manish Kaushik. Kaushik was preferred over him for the Commonwealth Games and he had gone on to win a silver. Future seemed uncertain.
But he fought his way back into the Asian Games squad. That joy didn’t last long though as he was knocked out by a Chinese rival in his very first bout. Having fluffed that opportunity, he had to start from scratch yet again.
He sat with coaches and worked on his technique. Form might have slipped away from him but the World Championship bronze medallist knew that he had all the tools to change status quo.
There was never a doubt about his talent. After all, he holds the record for being the youngest Indian boxer to take part in the Olympics at 18.
A silver medal earlier this year in Finland was just what he needed. In the selection trials later, he proved that he is still one of the best in the business by beating Kaushik to make the team. Nieva, who has always stressed on having a competitive environment in the camp, feels Thapa has added more weapons in his arsenal, something that has helped him gain ground in recent times.
“Earlier, his attack was predictable. Now he has developed better variation. He has good body punches, head punches and that has helped him,” Nieva said.
Kaushik, who considers Thapa to be his yardstick, feels that it is his experience that has guided him over the line in major tournaments. “He is a proven boxer and has all the experience. That’s his main advantage.”
Also, there’s no substitute for hardwork in Thapa’s case as Kaushik revealed. “He is always at it during training, always giving his 100 per cent.” This record run could spur Thapa further ahead of Tokyo Olympics.