Shiva Thapa became the sixth Indian boxer to qualify for the London Games after another brilliant performance on Wednesday (11th Apr, 2012) at the AIBA Asian Olympic Qualifying Event in Astana, Kazakhstan. The 18 year old young rising star was in top form as he devoured Satoshi Shimizu of Japan, to advance into the finals of the bantam weight division.
Shiva, who defeated Athens Olympics silver medallist and 2010 Asian Games winner Worapoj Petchkoon of Thailand in the quarter-finals, took on another experienced campaigner – Beijing Olympics participant and 2009 Asian Championship bronze medallist Shimizu, in the semis. He opened with a steady approach, sizing his Japanese opponent first. Shimizu had a notable height difference and took complete advantage of it in the first round. The Indian who, had to defend more and work on counter attack, was able to get in a few good hits, just before the close of the opening three minutes of play. He was still down a one point deficit (6:7) at the end. In the second round though, Thapa shifted gears and settled into a good rhythm; he negated the Japanese boxer’s height leverage with some great infighting – the right hand counter punch over the top, worked like a charm for him. The 2010 Youth Olympics silver medallist also threw in a series of left right combinations that yielded fine results. By now Thapa had taken complete control of the bout with a ten point lead (22:12). In the final round he eased off the throttle, but was still able to penetrate Shimizu’s defence at will. The Assam lad went on to win the bout with a total score of 31:17. He is now assured of at least a silver medal finish from the tournament. In the title clash of the 56 kilogram weight, Thapa takes on Asian Games bronze medallist Wessam Salamana of Syria on Thursday (12th Apr 2012).
“Shiva has shown a lot of grit to achieve the Olympic qualification. He was determined to make the cut and the way he went about his business, has been exceptional. He has exhibited great understanding of the game; his maturity coupled with his talent makes him a brilliant future prospect,” expressed Chief Coach GS Sandhu, who was delighted with the performance of the Indian boxer.
In the evening session, 2010 Youth Asian Championship silver medallist Sumit Sangwan (81kg) faced off against 2009 Asian Championship bronze medalist Ihab Almatdault from Jordan in the finals of the light heavy weight division. Leading only by a solitary point at the end of the second round, Sumit came with a renewed energy in the final round and won by convincing margin of 7:3, taking his overall score to 14:9 and securing the gold.
But there was disappointment for India in the other two bouts of the afternoon session. While Beijing Olympic bronze medallist Vijender Singh (75kg) lost to 2011 Asian Championship bronze medallist Nursahat Pazziyev of Turkmenistan, 2010 Asian Games silver medallist Manpreet Singh (91kg) was beaten by Asian Games bronze medallist Ali Mazaheri of Iran. Both the Indian boxers will have to be content with a bronze medal finish from the tournament.
Vijender, who has already cemented his place at the 2012 Olympiad, was engaged in a close encounter against the 19 year old Turkmenistan boxer. The 26 year old Indian, with his long reaching arms, tried hard, but was unsuccessful in penetrating the close defense of Pazziyev. Pazziyev on the other hand counter attacked with success and managed to squeeze in a point each, after the first and the second round (4:6). In the third round, story remained the same with both boxers sticking to the strategy. In the end Vijender, the Asian Games gold medallist, lost the round (3:4) and the bout on points (7:10). The former world number one, earlier in the competition, defeated 2011 Asian Championship silver medallist Chuluuntumur Tumurkhyag of Mongolia in the quarter-finals to win the all important Olympic quota.
Manpreet too found it difficult to get through the defence of Mazaheri. The Iranian boxer proved to be the better boxer, with his clear height advantage and long reaching arms. Although, Manpreet was leading with one point after the first round (3:2), the 30 year old a former Asian Champion came back strongly in the second and third to take the game away from the Indian. Singh tried hard to get inside Mazaheri’s guard and fight, but the Iranian’s long range prevented him. In the end 23 year olds dream of winning a berth for the London Olympics came to an end with a 6:13 defeat.