New Delhi, March 31: India boxer Ashish Chaudhary settled for a bronze medal at the Asia/Oceania Qualifying Tournament in Amman (Jordan) earlier this month and booked Tokyo Olympics 2020 quota in the 75 kg (middleweight) category.
The 24-year-old boxer who hails from Sundarnagar, Himachal Pradesh went down fighting in a closely fought semi-final round but is determined to learn from the mistakes he committed in that bout and never repeat it in the future.
The boxer has been on a 14-day self-quarantine at his home in the hill state but practising twice a day to keep himself physically fit.
The pugilist who won silver medals at the 2019 Asian Boxing Championships and India Open and the gold medal at the Thailand Open, like the rest of the country is staying indoors during the lockdown and spending time with his family during this break.
In an exclusive chat with MyKhel over the phone, the 24-year-old said he's keeping himself occupied by playing cricket with his brother, relaxing amidst the greenery around his home in the district of Sundarnagar during the lockdown imposed due to the novel coronavirus outbreak. The boxer is also confident of India's good show at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 where record nine pugilists from the country have secured the quota.
Here are the excerpts from the interview:
MyKhel: What was your reaction after the Tokyo Olympics were postponed?
Ashish Chaudhary: It was disappointing at first but at the same time, this break has allowed me to train harder and get better. It will also be a time for introspection and improve on the areas where I was lacking. It gives all the boxers enough time to nurse their injuries, if any, and get back in the rhythm. So, this break could be a blessing in disguise for us.
MK: How did you spend your time in the quarantine after returning from Amman?
AC: We first went to NIS in Patiala and from there we were directed to go to our respective homes and remain in home-quarantine for 14 days. We were advised to take all the necessary precautions at home and even maintain some distance with the family members as well. So, I confined myself at home and didn't go out. I am watching movies on television, spending time with my family members during this break. I am also doing regular practice twice a day to keep myself physically fit. Once the lockdown gets over we'll head to our camps.
MK: How are you keeping yourself mentally fit during this break because you are restricted to the confines of your home?
AC: I have a slight advantage in this regard. As I come from a family of athletes, my elder brother is a national-level wrestler. So everybody at my home is aware of the importance of the mental aspect of fitness. Also, it depends on the background we hail from. If there are athletes in one's family, then such a player would get the right environment at his home for his overall growth because the family members would understand what it takes to be an athlete. And if a budding athlete has no one in his/her family, who is aware of the nutrition and how to strike a balance between physical and mental fitness, then it gets tough for that player.
I am very fortunate in this regard as I have an athletic background. We are spending time together and trying to keep ourselves busy with something or the other and not get distracted. We talk about sports so I never really feel I am away from the sport. We even play cricket in our home compound.
MK: You had to settle for a bronze in the Olympic Qualifiers in Amman. What according to you went wrong in the semi-final bout which cost you?
AC: It was a close bout and my opponent had a better day. I introspected after my loss and realised that I should have played a bit more attacking game. Now I am confident enough that the result will be different as I won't repeat those mistakes in the future if I ever face that same boxer or someone else in the ring.
MK: Who do you take inspiration from?
AC: I have grown up watching my brother Jonny Chaudhary do well in wrestling. He is a national-level wrestler himself and always supported me in my journey as a boxer. He's my idol and inspiration.
MK: According to you, boxers from which countries are challenging for you in your category?
AC: I can't name a particular country or a person. There are several talented boxers in the middleweight category and believe you me anyone can beat anyone on his day. If I talk about some names then Ukrainian boxer Oleksandr Khyzhniak, who was the world champion in 2017, and the reigning world champion from Russia Gleb Bakshi are going to a challenge.
MK: How much improvement have you witnessed in Indian boxing the last three to four years?
AC: A lot of improvement we have seen and the credit for the same goes to the Boxing Federation of India (BFI). We are getting more chances to compete at the international level and that helps increase the confidence of the athletes. Also, the way BFI has blooded in young and dynamic coaches, both national and foreign, it has helped Indian boxing a lot. These young coaches are themselves pretty motivated and pumped up to get the best out of us and that inspires us to do well.
MK: Any particular skills you are planning to add in your repertoire during this gap?
AC: Being a tall boxer, I like playing long-range boxing and after my performance at the Olympic qualifiers, I realised there is a scope for improvement. So, I will be working in that department. Also, the game has evolved a lot and we are supposed to be three-dimensional players now. We should be good at defence, the offence and also in our skills and that is what every boxer in the country strives to achieve.
MK: Looking at the performance of our boxers in the last couple of years, what are India's chances at the Olympics?
AC: We have displayed some good performances and keeping that in mind I could say with confidence that we can win three to four medals in Tokyo in boxing.