CHENNAI: At 27 years of age, he is already a veteran. Shiva Thapa is a name that has been part of the Indian senior boxing team for more than a decade.
In the 2012 London Olympics, he had become the youngest Indian boxer to qualify. With matured head and a strong will to succeed, Thapa embarked on this magical journey in his loved sport. There was a lot of hope. A World Championships medal in 2015 raised expectations. When he entered the ring in Rio during the 2016 Olympics against a former champion, Thapa never thought he would lose.
"I was so confident that there was no question of thinking what if I lost the match," he recollected those thoughts. Since then, however, Shiva's form plummeted until recently.
"Sometimes life makes you wait," were Thapa's profound words.
On Tuesday when he won the national title, his fourth, he was relieved.
"It was a tough competition because World championships quota was at stake so everyone gave their best. So it was fulfilling to win the title," the Assam boxer, who got the better of Services' Dalveer Singh Tomar in the 63.5kg final, said. Sports, like life, has its share of vicissitudes, sometimes it could be crushing, but at times rewarding.
For Thapa, from being a young promising pugilist to obscurity and back has been quite a fascinating ride. "Nothing in life is futile," said Thapa, who is currently in Guwahati. He turned philosophical and said all these ups and downs have taught him a great deal.
"For me, every experience teaches you something. Whether it is good or bad. When I had a setback in my career, it taught me to work hard, learn about self-belief and patience. When I got the opportunity to go to the Asian Championships earlier this year, I thought it was a chance to prove myself. Sometimes, you need that break. When I won the medal, I did not even realise that it was the fifth Asian Championships medal. I was not thinking in terms of medals. I just wanted to perform and perform well. Coming out of setback defines you."
For Thapa, the biggest takeaway in his career had been these myriad experiences.
"The setback helped me understand myself and motivate myself to perform better and elevate my game. Psychologically, I am stronger." Thapa felt the two medals missing from his closets are the Asian Games and Olympics. "I am working towards that," he said.
"The Asian and Commonwealth Games next year and the Olympics in 2024, that's my target." When he was in London, he had just graduated to the senior level.
"When I participated in 2012, I knew I was the youngest boxer. But this time around, whether Asian Games or Olympics, I would be not content to just participate but win medals. 2024 Paris Olympics would be my third," Thapa, who had competed in 56kg category then, said. However, his 'setback' in his career he believed had coincided with the resurgence of boxing in India. There were youngsters challenging the seniors, even now the junior boxers can take on the seniors.
"The pool of boxers have increased and the sport is healthy right now. This year Lovlina Borgohain's medal will add to that craze for the sport. It is good for the sport." As he gears up for the World Championships, he felt this time India should do well.
"We have a good mix of seniors and juniors and we have a month in hand to practice. I'm sure we will do well." Despite spending more than a decade in the senior camp, Thapa has plenty to prove. Hopefully, the wait will be rewarding.