Pitted against Uzbekistan’s Bektemir Melikuziev in the quarter-finals of the middle-weight (75 kg) category, Indian boxer Vikas Krishan had had several demons to overcome in order to defeat his opponent and ensure his country of an elusive Olympic medal.
At 20, Melikuziev is four years younger than Krishan but having faced him in the Asian Championships last year, he had no qualms about admitting the skills of the Uzbek before the encounter. He even went as far as predicting he could claim gold if he managed to beat Melikuziev.
On Monday night, Krishan’s fears materialised before him. He struggled to find answers to the Uzbek’s questions and was left rattled by his opponent’s fleet of foot aggression. Krishan gave a good fight, but his helplessness was captured as his mouth guard was flung from his mouth after a rasping Melikuziev punch.
With Melikuziev on the verge of victory at two rounds to none, Krishan needed a knockout to turn things in his favour. His desperation, though, left him vulnerable and Melikuziev took advantage to land a series of decisive blows and seal the bout 3-0.
Speaking about the loss, Krishan was candid about lack of preparations.
“I always have a problem with a southpaw, whether it was in the last Olympic Games or in the qualifiers for Rio,” he said, “I knew that he would play the second round very fast. There was a lot of difference in power strokes between the two of us.”
Indeed, being a southpaw is not the most rewarding in a country like India.
“I did some practice against southpaws, but in India you hardly find such boxers. There are less than five per cent of them. I didn’t find any at my level.”
Another reason put forward by the pugilist is the administrative debacle that shook the boxing world and resulted in the Indian federation’s banning in 2012 following allegations of corruption and electoral manipulations. Krishan, however, stopped short of laying the blame for his defeat at someone else’s door and took full responsibility.
“We have a handful of opportunities,” he said. “We used to train with Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan but with the ban on federation we lost the opportunity and nobody called us. But I am not blaming the Federation; I lost because of my mistakes. I may have trained less than him.”
The sheer number of Indians qualifying for this year’s Olympics – three, in contrast to seven men and one woman in 2012 – should illustrate the affect of the country’s controversy on boxing in India. Not only had they lost out on international exposure, but they’d also seen their preparations hampered.
Indian boxing has suffered greatly over recent years, the ultimate consequence being a disastrous campaign at Rio. With Shiva Thapa (56 kg) and Manoj Kumar (64 kg) already ousted from the competition, Krishan’s defeat drew a conclusion to medal hopes for the country in boxing this time around.
Efimova told CNN’s Nick Paton Walsh that she was left “upset” by King’s comments before and after the 100m breaststroke final, in which the American won gold.
Lilly criticised her Russian opponents for being “caught drug cheating” but Efimova claimed the media stoked the flames.
EFIMOVA ON LILY KING
“The media always try to do some war or something between athletes. I think it’s more, like, interesting to watch but it’s very hard for athletes.
“It’s upset me so much, especially from like Michael Phelps and girls like Lilly King, and everybody.”
“She is too young. She (doesn’t) know about things. She (doesn’t) know how life is going sometimes when you try to do right.”
EFIMOVA ON RUSSIAN DOPING
“I know a lot of Russian athletes. It’s like more stupid – ‘oh just Russians use doping’ but every other country is fine?
“It’s like Russia, Russia, Russia, Russia like all Russia just ‘drink vodka, like have beer and drink doping’ and that’s it.”
EFIMOVA ON LIVING IN AMERICA
“Life is so much easier than in Russia. Everybody is smiling.
“America is about change – it changed me.”
It was late night euphoria for Indian badminton fans as PV Sindhu produced a sensational performance to make her way into the quarter-finals of the women’s singles event at the Rio Olympics on Monday.
The World No. 10 was in control throughout this Round of 16 clash to convincingly beat the eighth-ranked Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, 21-13, 21-15.
Sindhu’s win brought double delight for India as earlier the only shuttler in the men’s singles draw – Kidambi Srikanth too caused an upset when he defeated the World No. 5 Jan O Jorgensen to advance to the last-eight.
Considering that she had lost her only 2016 meeting with the Indonesia Open champion, the Indian was under a lot of pressure. But when they took the court, the 21-year-old Indian presented a picture of a calm and steady mind, unfazed by the challenge.
Her tactics were brilliant and helped to thoroughly dismantle a player of Tai’s talent. With aggressive smashes, punctuated by great dropshots, a superb Sindhu exposed the Taipei shuttler’s slow movement and left her with no chance.
Her attacking instincts paid rich dividends as she surged to an 11-6 lead by the mid-game interval. The game looked to be one-way traffic as the young Indian smartly kept on increasing her lead over her higher-ranked rival who looked clueless.
From 15-13, the two-time World Championships bronze medallist went on a run of six straight points to put the first game in her pocket in 19 minutes. The second game was a mirror image of the first with Sindhu being patient and hitting with pinpoint accuracy. That helped her break away from 7-6 to take a 12-7 lead and have the match in her grip.
A few errors did creep into the Indian’s otherwise polished game thereafter and the Taipei shuttler closed in to make it 12-17. But Sindhu was soon able to regroup to race to 20-12 and have a bagful of match points.
Tai saved three of them before finally succumbing to the Indian in 40 minutes. Sindhu next meets the 2012 silver medallist and former World No. 1 Wang Yihan of China on Tuesday for a place in the semi-finals.