World Boxing Championships: Post tragedy, Akash Kumar shows mettle
When the referee raised his arm signalling the win, Akash's celebration was palpable. With both his arms pointing towards the sky, he roared with delight.
CHENNAI: Taking part in his maiden World Championships, Akash Kumar (54kg) joined an esteemed club on Tuesday. With his attacking style of boxing, the youngster got the better of a more-acclaimed rival to enter the semifinals in Belgrade, thereby assuring himself a medal. Vijender Singh was the first pugilist from India to return with a medal from the marquee event in 2009. Five followed suit. Akash, thereby, became the seventh to achieve the special feat.
When the referee raised his arm signalling the win, Akash's celebration was palpable. With both his arms pointing towards the sky, he roared with delight. It was an emotional moment for him as this success had come after a tragic incident in his life recently. "I'm feeling proud after confirming the medal but I'm focussed on the remaining bouts," Akash said, after beating Rio Olympic silver medallist Yoel Finol of Venezuela 5-0.
"It has been a great experience, learning day-by-day. I was up against an Olympic medallist (on Tuesday) and I feel this has added to my experience. I want to dedicate this medal to my mother and father, my coaches and my fellow citizens from the country," he added.
Akash, who hails from Paluwas Village in Bhiwani (Haryana), had lost his mother just before the nationals in September. His family had kept the news away from him so that he could focus on boxing. Akash, who picked up the sport in 2008, had gone on to bag the gold during the Bellary meet, something that his mother had dreamt of. If not for that success, Akash would not have been part of this team. National chief coach Narendra Rana is impressed in the manner Akash, who turns 21 on November 11, has handled his mother's loss.
"His journey has been tough but he has shown that he is tough as well. I'm impressed by the manner he has coped after his mother's loss. After that, he told me that he has nothing to lose anymore and that he'll play with a free mind," the coach told this daily from Belgrade.
It was only after reaching home, he learnt about the heart-breaking development. His uncle, Bhawar Singh, who has been a big support in Akash's journey, recollected those difficult hours when the boxer, after winning the national title, finally learnt about his mother's passing. "The day he reached home, we were conducting Rasam Pagri ceremony. He saw all the relatives and he felt they had come to welcome him. But when we showed him his mother's photo, he was sad. Then we read aloud the Gita to him. He became much calmer after that," Bhawar recalled.
Bhawar revealed he was just trying to fulfil Akash's father's dream. It was his father, a former national-level wrestler, who wished to see his sons, including Akash, to take up boxing before he passed away in late 2008. "It was tough for me (to explain things then). He was just eight when his father passed away. His father's dream was to see him become a boxer. Akash also has dedicated his life to the sport and never misses his training," Bhawar said.
Akash has certainly arrived at the grand stage and achieved his parents' wishes. It will be interesting to see how high he can reach in the days to come.
Meanwhile, Narender (+92kg) and Shiva Thapa (63.3kg), the other Indians in action on the day lost their respective quarterfinal bouts to crash out.