CHENNAI: Barely a few hours after landing in Dubai, some of the young boxers entered the ring to show their fighting spirit on Friday. Moreover, these boxers had been stuck at the Delhi airport for many hours for two days. Most of them would have barely had proper sleep in the last couple of days or so. Despite the ordeal, some of the boxers put up a brave performance to post victories on the opening day of the Asian Junior and Youth Championships, being held in the UAE.
Granting of visa late on Tuesday due to travel restrictions and confusion over pre-departure covid protocol for UAE, the boxers/officials had been declined by airport authorities to fly on Wednesday. On such a short notice, it was always going to be a challenge for the Boxing Federation of India to get alternate flights at the earliest. This meant Indian officials/coaches were not able to attend the technical/official draw, which was conducted on Thursday evening. With hope of leaving on Thursday, the boxers had returned to the Delhi airport in the afternoon. Since the number of flights to UAE are just a few, only 23 members could find seats, forcing the BFI to send the contingent in batches. As per the draw, as many as 10 junior boxers from the country were scheduled to begin their campaign on Friday.
It was going to be touch and go with the BFI, bearing the likely bouts in mind, doing all they can to arrange an early morning flight. Their efforts paid off as they managed to send all the junior boxers early in the morning. After reaching in the afternoon, the day's proceeding began at 4pm (Dubai time). First to enter the ring for India was Rohit Chamoli (48kg), who pulled off a solid win in the junior boys' category to march into the semifinals and assure himself a bronze medal at least. Nikhil (54kg), Anshul (57kg), Preet Malik (63kg), Ankush (66kg), Gaurav Saini (70kg) were equally impressive, winning their respective bouts. Four Indians, however, lost their bouts.
"It was a great experience, I'm delighted," Rohit told this daily. The last few days of ordeal was not lost on Rohit. "Bohot jyada (A lot)," he replied, when asked if the last two few days had been demanding.
Positive energy from coaches spurred him to beat the odds and pull off a victory. "The coaches motivated us a lot. I entered the ring thinking about my personal coach," the youngster from Uttarakhand, said.
Before throwing even a single punch, boxers from India were assured of 21 medals in the continental event due to fewer entries. A total of nine pugilists from the country will contest in the final. The organisers were initially expecting participation from 18 countries but many boxers pulled out or sent smaller squads because of the Covid-19 restrictions in place.
Meanwhile, the final batch of boxers — comprising mostly youth women — departed from Delhi on Friday evening.