AMMAN (Jordan): World bronze-medallist Manish Kaushik (63kg) on Wednesday became the ninth Indian boxer to book an Olympic berth after winning a brutal box-off at the Asian Qualifiers as the country recorded its best ever qualifying numbers for the quadrennial showpiece.
Kaushik defeated Commonwealth Games champion and second seed Harrison Garside 4-1 to make the cut for Tokyo 2020 after a draining showdown which left the Australian with a bloodied face and the Indian exhausted by painful hits to his ribs.
However, there was no golden finish to the qualifying flourish as Olympic-bound finalists Vikas Krishan (69kg) and Simranjit Kaur (60kg) ended with silver medals for varied reasons.
While Krishan had to pull out owing to an eye injury, world bronze-winner Kaur was outwitted by Asian Games champion Yeonji Oh of South Korea.
Historic Moment for Indian Boxing!💪 🇮🇳 confirms 9⃣th #Olympic2020 spot as #ManishKaushik (63 kg) defeated HGarside… https://t.co/ljI6fie61l
— Boxing Federation (@BFI_official) 1583926957000
It was a repeat of the 2018 CWG final for Kaushik; only this time, the 24-year-old Indian ended up on the winning side. The top six in the 63kg category were entitled to Olympic berths in the ongoing event and Kaushik and Garside were taking a second shot at qualification after losing in the quarterfinals.
“It was my dream to play at the Olympics and today it has finally come true for me and my family. My coaches have made a huge contribution in this,” Kaushik, an Armyman, said after the win.
“I sustained an injury in the opening round itself but my coaches told me to keep fighting hard and I did. It got me the result that I wanted,” he added.
Before this, India’s highest qualifying number for an Olympic Games was eight for the 2012 edition in London. That too was achieved over more than one qualifying tournament.
However, in a disappointing result, first-timer Sachin Kumar (81kg) was pummelled by Shabbos Negmatulloev of Tajikistan in his box-off final to bow out of contention for an Olympic place at this event.
Lauding Indian boxers, BFI president Ajay Singh said: “It is a moment of pride for Indian boxing. For the first time ever, 9 Indian pugilists have qualified for the Olympics and that too at the first qualifying event. We still have the World Qualifiers in May and I am confident that India will qualify in all the 13 categories.”
“Our mission is to win Olympic medals and these 9 qualifications are an indication of the potential that Indian boxers posses. Having qualified in the first qualification event will give them a big boost and will motivate them to work harder. On our part, we along with the sports ministry and SAI will ensure that we provide them with the best possible infrastructure and support to meet the end objective,” BFI president added.
Earlier, Olympic-bound Commonwealth Games champion Krishan signed off with a silver medal after an eye injury forced him to pull out of the final on Wednesday.
Krishan, a world and Asian medallist, was to take on Jordan’s Zeyad Eashash in the summit clash.
“He did not compete because of the cut,” India’s High Performance Director Santiago Nieva told PTI.
“It’s been overall a fantastic performance and I couldn’t have been happier,” he said of the Indian show.
Krishan had defeated second seed Ablaikhan Zhussupov of Kazakhstan, a two-time world bronze-medallist, in the semifinals on Tuesday.
He sustained a cut on his left eyelid in the second round of the bout before claiming a split decision victory.