CHENNAI: Boxers like Gaurav Solanki and Sakshi Chaudhary have unfinished business, having just missed out on Olympic qualification earlier this year. But they will get a second opportunity to do the same after the IOC Olympic Boxing Task Force (BTF) said that they're looking to conduct the World Qualification Event in May 2021.
"Final event details will be communicated no later than 3 months prior to each qualification event," Morinari Watanabe, chairman of BTF, in a letter addressed to presidents of National Olympic Committees and national boxing federations, said. The coronavirus pandemic has forced the sport to come to a standstill. The European boxing qualifiers were taking place in London in mid-March when the BTF cancelled the events with athletes' safety in mind. The BTF plans to continue where they left off in February next year. Meanwhile, the American qualifier could be held in March.
Earlier, the BTF had successfully managed to conduct the Asia/Oceania Olympic qualifiers in March. Indians made hay then with a haul of nine quotas. But Solanki and Sakshi had missed that boat. That is why they come into the picture for next year's aforementioned qualifiers. If they manage to beat all challengers from the national camp, they will take on pugilists who miss out on qualification in other continental events.
Solanki was rather unlucky to come up against top seed Mirazizbek Mirzakhalilov, who went on to win the 57kg title, in the early rounds then. That setback has added fire in his belly. "Having rubbed shoulders with some of the top boxers, you get to learn a lot. You get to learn what level of boxing is required. With that in mind, I have been working on things that were lacking in my game. I want to make the second chance count. My dream is not just qualification, but also to win a medal," the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said.
Nine Indians who had made history during Amman qualifiers for India were MC Mary Kom (51kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg), Pooja Rani (75 kg), Amit Panghal (52kg), Manish Kaushik (63kg), Vikas Krishan (69kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg) and Satish Kumar (+91kg). That means Indians have second opportunity to grab four (one in women's and three in men's) more quotas for the Tokyo Olympics which was postponed to 2021 due to the pandemic.
Men's high-performance director Santiago Nieva is optimistic about India's chances and that the start of the camp will signal a new beginning. He's also hopeful that his wards can get much-needed competitive action later this year. "We will do everything that we can to win more quotas and I think we have a good chance. Now that the camp is starting soon, hopefully, everything will slowly start opening up," Nieva said. "There are international events opening up with some of the countries announcing competitions. In October, there are invitations for tournaments but we have to assess the situation then. A lot of practical (travel, quarantine, etc) issues to be dealt with. It's too early to tell though. But we are ready to start."
The soon-to-begin camp may be a step forward for boxers in their quest to live Olympic dreams.