Sons of Bhiwani: The village that gave us Vijender Singh now hopes for Olympic glory from Vikas Krishan
Exactly eight years ago, almost out of the blue, one boxing superstar emerged from India - Vijender Singh as he became the first Indian to win a bronze in Beijing. However, he was already making news two years earlier after clinching a silver at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
Suddenly Indian boxing was hugely popular and Bhiwani - where Vijender came from became famous for its boxers. After him, another pugilist from Bhiwani has become India's best Olympic medal hope in the same category.
Ace middleweight boxer Vikas Krishan Yadav was only 20 when he participated in London. Four years later, he is going to the Summer Games again, but this time with a lot more experience and expectations.
After defeating South Korea's Dongyun Lee convincingly in the quarter-final of the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) World Qualifying Tournament in Baku, Vikas became the 98th athlete in the Indian contingent to secure an Olympic berth. But a cut on his forehead ruled him out of the semi-final clash against Turkmenistan's Achilov Arslanbek and the Haryanvi pugilist had to settle for a bronze.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, the 24-year-old says, "It has been a long journey with lots of ups and downs over the past four years. I have earned my chance to set it right and that is something that I am going to be doing."
In London, he was eliminated from the Games in the preliminary rounds despite initially being declared the winner against Errol Spence of the United States. The decision was overturned after his opponent successfully appealed to the Amateur International Boxing Association against Vikas committing fouls and intentionally spitting out his mouthguard.
"I was not in a very good place mentally after whatever happened at the 2012 Olympics.I even contemplated giving up boxing entirely. However, a year into that, I realised that boxing was my passion," says the DSP of Haryana Police
A disappointing Olympics campaign saw Vikas take a long break from boxing, but when the pugilist returned, he fetched a bronze in the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.
"Since the 2014 Asian Games where I won bronze, I have been thankful for the second chance that I got. I know that I need to make it count. The Olympics are a platform that pits the best of the world against you and I want to show everyone that I have got what it takes to battle the best and come out on top."
Bhiwani is a few hours drive from Delhi but is predominantly rural. He says, "My father is a very hardworking man. Once he spotted that I was serious about boxing, he completely supported me."
There were times when things were a bit tricky but his father did not let that affect Vikas. "It was all about me doing well in the ring - getting better and winning medals," adds the gold-medalist of the 2010 Asian Games.
Not disappointing his father, Vikas has always left his stamp in the ring. He says, "At the junior level, I had a fair amount of success. The only thing I told myself when I transitioned to the senior level was to not let anything faze me."
"When I won the Gold at the 2010 Asian Games, it did my confidence a world of good. It told me that I was good enough to fight, compete and even challenge for the top prize at the senior level," he adds.
The magnitude of the Olympic Games and the importance it holds for any and every sportsman is huge. The story is same for this JSW-supported athlete.
"My coaches Jagdeep Hooda and Dharmendra Yadav have been my pillar of support. JSW have been fantastic. They have arranged for foreign training trips, the right gear and all these factors played a big part in keeping me in the right zone mentally," he says.
But Vikas is ready to give everything to see the national flag and himself on that podium. He adds, "I have improved a lot since that bout in London. I know that I am a technically good boxer. I know that I can score enough points and not leave my fate in the hands of the judges. I believe I can do that."
While five male boxers from India had competed at the 2008 Olympics, a total of eight boxers (seven men and one woman) qualified for the 2012 Olympics. This year, however, only three boxers have qualified for the Games so far but the largest-ever Indian contingent will look to battle their way in the biggest sporting extravaganza of the world.
While Vikas will turn out at for India's first gold medal next month, the people of Bhiwani will be hoping for the glory of another of their proud son in this sport. Like Bhiwani, the country will cheer along.