Indian boxer Manish Kaushik had mixed emotions when he qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics by virtue of a splendid performance at the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in March last year. On one hand, Kaushik was elated due to the achievement, but on the other hand, he suffered a heart-break due to an injury he sustained during the event. With the Games supposed to kick off in a few months, the Haryana-based boxer was losing sleep over not making the flight to Tokyo.
But soon, his fears faded as the 2020 Tokyo Games got postponed by a year, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even though the injury took a long time to heal, Kaushik is now back to full force. It was reflected in his performance at the 2021 Boxam International Tournament, where he claimed a gold medal in the 63kg event. It was his first competitive event since recovering from the injury.
Buoyed by the superb performance, Manish Kaushik is leaving no stone unturned for the 2021 Tokyo Games. Sportskeeda recently caught up with the boxer for an exclusive chat, where the 25-year-old discussed his Tokyo preparations, recovery and how the postponement of the Olympics has worked wonders for him.
Here are the excerpts -
SK: Having already qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics last year, how did you react when the Games got postponed? With the injury that you suffered during the Olympic Qualifiers, was the postponement a blessing in disguise?
Manish: When I suffered the injury, I had no idea about whether the 2020 Tokyo Olympics would be postponed, or regarding the time it would take for me to recover. I had a mind-set for normal situations. But, the lockdown was imposed and I did not get proper medical attention at that time.
Then it was announced that the Olympics got postponed by a year, while I also came to know that the injury will take some time to heal. I was relieved that the efforts did not go to waste. Whatever happens, happens for good.
SK: Did the extra time you got during the COVID-19-enforced break help in your recovery? Can you say that you’re in a better position now to compete than a year ago if the Olympics had happened in 2020?
Manish: I am feeling a lot better now than a year ago. I had to live with the fact that I was down with an injury with three months left for the Olympics. But now, we got extra time to prepare for the mega event. Of all disciplines, boxing resumed first after the lockdown — in July — which was of great help.
SK: How has the absence of international events for a long time affected you and other boxers in the Indian circuit?
Manish: Boxers need to take part in international events, to gauge where they stand and what the areas are where they need to improve. So, it was quite difficult during the lockdown when there was no competition around. So, when I started playing again, it felt really good.
SK: Did you experience any difficulty when you hit the ring for the first tournament post-lockdown? Did you expect to win the Boxam International Tournament?
Manish: When I resumed competitive boxing after recovering from the injury at the Boxam International Tournament, I was mentally cautious about how my body would react after the one-year gap.
In fact, my body was working fine, but the gold medal win at the event boosted my confidence even further. It was not that I had changes in my body, I was feeling the same as I did before the injury.
SK: With months to go for the Games to start, how are you preparing for the event? Any special arrangements?
Manish: The last phase is always important, we need to improve on our drawbacks. The main focus will be on the speed you bring into your game. With three rounds per match, the faster one can be, he will have a better chance of winning points.
SK: This is India’s best boxing contingent at the Olympics, with 9 boxers already having qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Games. What has been the reason for the spectacular turnaround in the past few years?
Manish: During the 2012-2015 period, we did not have a federation to look after us, so the exposure was less. But, after that, we got the opportunity to play abroad.
Previously, only the top-ranked pugilists used to get a chance to feature in international events, but now the second and third-ranked players also get equal attention.
We now have a pretty decent domestic structure as well. With the competition between the players getting intense, it helps us at the international stage.