New Delhi: The "burden" of qualification off his back, star Indian boxer Vijender Singh is now gearing up to shoulder a fresh burden - the one of heightened expectations - when he appears in his third successive Olympic Games come July. The 26-year-old Olympic and World Championship bronze-medalist, who returned to the country on Saturday after bagging a London berth during the recently-concluded Asian Qualifiers in Kazakhstan, said he is relieved to have gotten rid of some pressure.
"The burden is off me, the confidence is back," a smiling Vijender told reporters at a felicitation function in New Delhi on Saturday, where team sponsors Monnet Group handed out cash prizes to the boxers who have qualified for the London Games from the Kazakhstan event.
Vijender sealed his Olympic berth with a bronze medal in the Asian Qualifiers. Asked if booking a London ticket lulled him into complacency as he went on to lose in the semi-finals, the former world number one retorted, "Look, my target was to qualify for the Olympics but I gave my 100 percent in all my bouts. I don't think my performance was bad in any of my bouts. I have beaten the guy who was the eventual gold-medalist. It wasn't my day so I lost, nothing more to it," he said.
Besides the expectations, Vijender is also gearing up to shoulder the responsibility of being the senior mentor to the three teenagers who are part of the seven-member strong Indian boxing contingent that has made the Olympic cut.
"Boxing is an individual sport but we share our individual experiences with each other. They will get whatever support they need from me. I am ready to play the senior role and soak in the pressure," he said.
On how many medals he expects India to bag in the Olympics, Vijender said the realistic target is at least two. "We will try for two," said Vijender, when national coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu interrupted to say, "Look he is the one talking about Olympic medals, I haven't said anything."
Vijender laughed and replied, "If we don't even think about getting medals, how will we get them? We have to believe that we will get Olympic medals."
In that case, the strapping six-footer was asked, why he is expecting just one or two? Why not more?
"We have to be realistic as well. Slow and steady wins the race. Last time we got one medal, so we should take it step by step. Maybe next Olympics, we can aim for four-five medals," explained Vijender.
"The Indian team is perfect right now. The teenagers in the team signify that India's boxing future is very bright. They will do really well and I will also try to live up to the pressure and expectations being the senior guy," he said.