Ex-national boxing chief coach Bhaskar Bhatt hopeful of Dronacharya award

With Bhatt at the helm, Indian women boxers secured many medals in major events and are now in a position of strength ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Coach Bhaskar Bhatt. (Photo | Express)
Coach Bhaskar Bhatt. (Photo | Express)

CHENNAI: Women's boxing in the country is in a good place at the moment. That's down to the collective efforts of everyone involved — the boxers, of course, the National Boxing Federation (BFI), Sports Authority of India (SAI) and the support staff. One person who's had an influence on lifting the sport is former women's national chief coach Bhaskar Bhatt.

Having played his hand in setting up a strong base for the current Indian team, he has taken the back seat and is currently guiding boxers at SAI NCOE, Rohtak. Bhatt's last assignment with the senior women's team was when India returned with four gold medals in the 2023 IBA World Championships in New Delhi. Now, Bhatt is hopeful that he'll be considered for the prestigious Dronacharya Award.
His track record speaks for itself. Given his association with the sport for almost three decades, the 59-year-old is a fitting candidate.

Bhatt's coaching sojourn began way back in 1992 when he joined SAI in Kurukshetra. In the following years, he used different pin codes, shifting base on multiple occasions in order to impart knowledge to aspiring talents. But it was in 2005, during his stint in Guwahati, that he got some form of recognition. After recognising Bhatt's dedication towards his craft, the then national chief coach, Anoop Kumar, took him under his wings to assist him.

Lovlina Borgohain is a household name and she has a fair chance of medalling for the second time in the Olympics. It was Bhatt and other members of the coaching staff in the SAI Training Centre (STC) who had a hand in solidifying the culture of boxing in Guwahati. "Most boxers (from Guwahati) were national medallists. A lot of boxers did well at the international level as well. Kalpana (Choudhary), and Pranamika Bora were well-known boxers from Assam. That was the start of my journey. Shiva (Thapa) and his father also used to come for training then," Bhatt, who was named best coach of SAI for the year 2021-22, recollects.

Bhatt, who comes across as a mild-mannered person, felt the times during the Coronavirus pandemic to be a real game-changer.

"The lockdown period was critical. We learnt a lot as a team. The environment was like a Gurukul then. The teamwork — boxers, BFI, SAI, coaches,  sports medicine experts — then was game-changing. Now, most of the boxers are doing well. Boxers like Nitu (Ganghas), Praveen (Hooda), Preeti (Pawar), and Arundhati (Choudhary) have now found a place in the elite team," he noted. Preeti and Praveen are, in fact, in the running for Olympic glory having already secured quotas in the recent Asian Games. Arundhati missed out then but is very much in the equation.

Sportspersons making sacrifices in order to chase their dreams is well-documented. Bhatt is no stranger to sacrifices. With his daughter and wife, he has changed homes multiple times. New environment, a new school for his daughter, would have been challenging for the Bhatt family. His family has been his rock in his pursuit of coaching excellence. "Wherever I have been transferred to, my wife and my daughter came along. My wife has always been supportive. She used to look after our daughter. If I hadn't gotten that support, I would probably not be where I'm today. My parents and my elder brother, who was into boxing, were also really encouraging."

In order to focus on his daughter's studies, he stepped aside from the national circuit from 2012 to 2016 before returning as national youth women's chief coach. "It would have been impossible without my family's support," he said.

It was in Pithoragarh district where Bhatt got his early lessons in the sport. His father, who was an Army man, pushed him to pursue the sport along with his elder brother under the watch of Captain Hari Singh Thapa, a renowned boxing champion from Uttarakhand.

"He (Captain) used to be our Guruji. My brother learnt from him and won gold at the state level and then my father wanted me to tag along with my brother. Guruji used to travel around 5 kms (morning and afternoon) every day just to teach us without any fee. Seeing him, we used to get motivated and used to feel we should do better."

Along with boxing lessons, he also picked up some valuable insights like gratitude, dedication and sacrifice — lessons that have proven to be invaluable in his career so far. "All their blessings have helped. Gradually, I improved and was part of the nationals and joined SAI."
This is not the first time Bhatt is applying for the top award. In 2021, his name was excluded at the last minute for which he had faced embarrassment. Bhatt has no regrets and is hopeful that things will be different this time.

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