Satish Kumar raring to take the ring in Tokyo after overcoming Covid-19
Few expected an Indian to qualify in the super heavyweight category at Tokyo 2020. Never in the history of Indian Olympic boxing has anyone achieved the feat. Hence, Satish Kumar’s campaign was not in spotlight at the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Amman, Jordan.
In the first round, he got a bye, which meant he had to beat Mongolia’s Daivii Otgonbayar to secure an Olympic ticket. And he did that in some style.
Upon returning to India, the country went into a lockdown and there were no competitions until December when the squad flew to Cologne to participate in the World Cup.
Although he performed superbly in the tournament, he could not take part in the finals. The same thing happened in the Boxam International in Spain. Two finals and two injuries.
"In Cologne, I hurt my biceps and I could not play in the finals. Then even before I went to Boxam, I was very sick and had to take a lot of antibiotics. I played in the first two rounds but I was not feeling well at all. I was bleeding from the nose and there was a lot of coughing.
"Then the coaches and the doctors suggested that I take rest and back off. I had no energy to fight a boxing match. The antibiotics had sapped everything out of me," narrated Kumar to Olympics.com, with a grief-stricken voice.
His misfortunes continued and when his peers were getting ready for the Asian Championship he tested Covid-19 positive and had to sit out of the trip to Dubai.
"It would have been good if I had participated in the Asian Championship. It is always great to have competition before the Olympics. It has affected me a little but in Italy, we went up against quality boxers which have helped me to gain some valuable experience."
The European sojourn was critical for his preparations. There was a concern of getting rusty with so many months devoid of competition.
"Now I am completely fit. I am training with full intensity and the body is peaking at the right time. Hope I remain fit until Tokyo."
Under the guidance of Santiago Nieva, the boxer has been focusing not only on himself but also on his opponents. Uzbekistan's Bakhodir Jalolov has troubled him in the past and he knows that going up against the world champion will not be an easy task.
"I have to remain a bit more careful. In 91+ kg, the challenges are unique. Most of the boxers are heavyweight and you get to realise their power when the punches land on your face. But I always try to adapt according to my opponent so there is always a combination of power and speed."
Although Kumar will be the first Indian to ply his trade in 91+ category, he feels no extra burden on his shoulders.
"In Olympics, there will be pressure. You need to perform under pressure. That is the job of an athlete. Also, there should be a bit of pressure as it helps you to give your best and remain on your toes."
In Cologne and Boxam, he has proven his mettle and shown that he belongs to the big boy's league. In Tokyo, if he manages to remain fit, then there's every possibility of history being scripted once more.
When will Satish Kumar start his Tokyo 2020 campaign?
Satish Kumar will be first in action on Saturday, July 24, in a Round of 32 bout in the men's super heavyweight category.