NEW DELHI, April 4: The only Indian boxer to have qualified for this year�s Olympics so far, Shiva Thapa today said the �Road to Rio� has been the toughest journey of his career till date even though he has shut his mind to the myriad problems that engulf the sport in the country.
The 22-year-old Assam boy, who last year became only the third Indian boxer ever to clinch a World Championship bronze, won a silver medal and more importantly an Olympic quota berth at the just-concluded Asia/Oceania Zone Qualifiers in Qian�an, China.
With this, the world No.6 in bantamweight category is set for his second successive Olympic appearance after making his debut back in 2012 as an 18-year-old. At that time, he became the youngest Indian boxer ever to have qualified for the quadrennial extravaganza, winning a sensational gold medal in the qualifiers.
�This time, it�s been mentally more challenging and certainly the toughest of my career. I had a point to prove, deep inside perhaps I was very angry and wanted to show what I could do,� Shiva told PTI in an interview.
�That�s why when I won the semifinal bout, which assured me of an Olympic spot, I let out a huge scream in the ring. It was a lot of pent up emotions which came out. I don�t need to say how tough it has been for us in India because of all that has happened in the last few years and it was such a relief to qualify and beat the circumstances,� he said.
India has been without a national federation for almost a year now after Boxing India was terminated following a rebellion by state units. That termination was a continuation of the turmoil that engulfed the sport in 2012 when the erstwhile Indian Amateur Boxing Federation was dissolved owing to manipulation in elections.
As a result, Indian boxers are competing under the International Boxing Association (AIBA) flag and could even be barred by the world body from Olympics if a national federation does not take shape by May 14.
Asked if this AIBA threat plays on his mind, the former Asian champion simply breaks into laughter.
�I don�t think about it and I am being honest here. That�s the best possible way to deal with it, I just shut my mind to all this. Everybody knows we boxers have gone through a lot and still managed to perform. So, it�s best not to think about it too much,� he said.
The Rio ticket in his pocket, Shiva says he would work out his training plan after taking a break for the next few days.
�I need to switch off for some time now. It�s very important and after that I would decide the next course of action. I would definitely be travelling abroad for training but it isn�t decided where it would be as of now. The one thing that I would be working on probably is my aggression,� he said.
�I am a much more aggressive boxer now but I have to ensure that I never go overboard. Because if you lose control over aggression, you will end up looking absolutely silly inside the ring,� he explained.
The last time he qualified for the Olympics, Shiva was part of a seven-strong group spearheaded by the much celebrated Vijender Singh, who is now plying his trade with success in the professional circuit.
From a greenhorn to a potential spearhead this time, Shiva said he is ready for the new responsibilities.
�I am aware that there would be pressure this time and I am ready for it. I am much more comfortable with the spotlight and the big stage doesn�t unnerve me any more,� he said. � PTI