New Delhi: For nearly a decade, Satish Kumar has been India's flagbearer in the men's super heavyweight category. He missed out on qualification to the 2016 Rio Olympics by the barest of margins, but in March this year, he created history by becoming the first Indian to qualify for the Games in the +91kg category.
"I was extremely happy to qualify for the Olympics and on top of that there was the fact that I am the first Indian to qualify in my weight category," Satish told IANS on Wednesday. "I really can't explain that feeling. It is everyone's dream to get to this stage and win a medal at the Olympics. It's the same for me and so now that I am there my target is to get the medal."
Boxing was not a sport that Satish was aware of for much of his years growing up. He joined the Indian Army in 2008 as a teenager and he credits the army for not only introducing him to the sport but for giving him a direction in life.
"If it wasn't for the army I don't think I would be where I am now. I am from Dehat and there are very few there who really set goals for themselves but after I joined the army I got that direction.
"I heard about boxing for the first time in 2008. I got to know what the sport is really all about at the time. Otherwise I used to think that WWE is boxing. I knew Undertaker and John Cena but not real boxing. In the army I understood what is real boxing."
The euphoria that came with sealing qualification for the Tokyo Olympics was quickly balanced off by the news that the Games had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Soon, the country went into lockdown and Satish has been training at his home in Bulandshahr, Uttar Pradesh ever since.
He said that while he is training with whatever he has at home, it can never be the same as what he does in a national camp.
"In the camp the 100 per cent training that I do usually is not something I can do at home. I make do with whatever equipment I have at home and am able to do about 65-70 percent here," he said.
There has been communication with the coaching staff, Boxing Federation of India (BFI) and the Target Olympic Podium Scheme (TOPS) about training plans and potential competitions after the lockdown ends but it is impossible for any of it to be confirmed at the moment, he says.
"There has been communication but nothing is confirmed. There are plans about where we need to go and what training needs to be done but none of it is compulsory yet (owing to the lockdown). BFI has made plans on where to go for competitions or training right after the lockdown but unless it ends, nothing can be confirmed," he said.
"For now I am just focussing on the training programme that coaches have prepared for us. There are different sessions reserved for each day. So today was for weight training. Otherwise there are days for running and endurance and we keep alternating like this. So today I did squats, power lifts, snatch; all exercises to keep up my strength. There are no gym facilities anywhere so I am using stuff like ropes, tires or whatever is there at home.
"We have been asked by SAI and BFI about equipment that we need. I have told them accordingly but for now nothing has happened after that."
Resumption of outdoor training in Sports Authority of India (SAI) facilities with reasonable restrictions is something that the Indian Olympic Association (IOA) has been clamouring for. On Sunday, Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju said that the ministry is planning a phase-wise resumption of camps possibly by the end of this month. Those athletes that have qualified for the Olympics or are close to qualification will be given first preference.
"If it happens then it will be a very good thing," said Satish. "If not for everyone then at least for those who have qualified for the Olympics or are about to qualify, if facilities are made available for them, it will be very good indeed. It is a good decision that the Sports Minister has made.
"It has been more than a month that we have done proper training and certainly losses are happening because of that so it will be good if some measures are taken," said Satish.