New Delhi: They dreamt of appearing at the Olympics some day but Indian boxers Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan never thought that they would realise this aspiration while still in their teenage. (Agencies)
The 18-year-old Shiva (56kg) and the 19-year-old Sumit (81kg) would be among the three teens (L Devendro Singh (49kg) being the third), who are part of an unprecedented seven-strong boxing team to have qualified for the Olympics.
The two clinched not just Olympic berths but also gold medals in their respective categories at the Asian Qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan on Thursday.
Shiva, in fact, is the youngest Indian boxer to make the Olympics, having done it at an age when he becomes eligible to vote and drive.
"I always dreamt of making it to the Olympics when I started boxing but wow! I mean I have actually qualified, it feels just fantastic," the Assam-boxer, who is a silver-medallist from the Youth Olympics, said from Astana.
Shiva, who was included in the team at the expense of senior boxer Akhil Kumar, was competing in only his second senior international event after striking gold on debut last year.
For Sumit, it was his first senior international event after getting the better of Olympian Dinesh Kumar in the national trials.
"Of course you dream that it happens but I never thought that I would do it so soon. It's a great feeling," Sumit, who started boxing in 2001, said.
The two come from distinct backgrounds. While Shiva is a product of the Army Sports Institute in Pune, Haryana-lad Sumit has honed his skills under the watchful eyes of his boxer uncle Vinod Sangwan.
The two were batchmates at the junior and youth level and their rise at the senior level has also coincided quite brilliantly.
Talking about their performance at a stage as big as the Olympic Qualifiers, the duo discussed about the challenges of planning for bigger, older and experienced opponents but brushed aside talk of any nerves.
"What nerves? Once I was selected for the tournament, I had the confidence that I could do it," said Shiva.
"No bout is easy at any level but at the senior level, I came across guys who were taller and stronger and it all came down to planning and executing the strategy given to us by our coaches," added Sumit.
No doubt it's a dream realised for them but a dream that is still incomplete.
"It's the first step towards the bigger dream of getting an Olympic medal. That it is the ultimate goal," said Shiva, whose favourite at the start of his career was Mike Tyson but right now that preference lies blank.
"Favourites keep changing. It used to be Mike Tyson when I started because of his style but right now, it's no one," said Shiva.
The two said they hardly have any time to celebrate this triumph as they have to prepare themselves for a bigger celebration.
"Qualifying is done, now for the bigger challenge -- the Olympics. If we win there, then we would celebrate," said Sumit.
National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu was effusive in his praise of the young guns.
"They have shown maturity beyond their age. Their performance has been superb in every count. Indian boxing is lucky to have such good young talent," he said.
New Delhi: They dreamt of appearing at the Olympics some day but Indian boxers Shiva Thapa and Sumit Sangwan never thought that they would realise this aspiration while still in their teenage.