Shiva Thapa is the sole Indian boxer to qualify for this year’s Olympics so far.
There could be a few more if results are favourable at AIBA’s World Qualifying tournament in Baku.
However, there are two boxers—both former Olympians, both former medallists—-who are hoping for indirect entry to Rio.
They are Mary Kom and Vijender Singh.
While Kom failed to qualify, Vijender turned professional last year. That ought to have ended his bid for yet another medal but he was provided a glimmer of hope when AIBA opened their doors to pros earlier this month.
Singh, however, has a WBO Asia Pacific title bout scheduled for July 16 in New Delhi against Kerry Hope.
That effectively belied his Olympic aspirations—or so, we believed. The professional boxers qualifying tourney is scheduled a week earlier in Venezuela.
But Vijender has other ideas.
Speaking from Manchester, the former three-time Olympian said:
“Why can’t there be a wild card entry for me? Why can’t the ad-hoc committee demand the same for me from the AIBA? They are making every effort to get a wild card for Mary Kom despite the fact that she has not qualified for Rio. But in my case, there is a clear bias because no one in India is serious about my Olympic participation.
I should also be given a chance if the rules have been relaxed by the AIBA for pro boxers to compete at Rio. I am a three-time Olympian and have fought in Commonwealth Games, Asian Games as well as World Championships.”
Vijender believes he is being discriminated against because he is now a professional pugilist.
“It seems that I am no longer competing for India. The officials believe that since I have turned pro, I shouldn’t have a chance of going to Rio. They feel they shouldn’t help me because I no longer represent India in amateur boxing. I am fighting my professional bouts under the tri-colour. My name is announced as ‘Vijender Singh from India’. All my victories in the pro circuit are for India. My Asian title bout will be for India.”
Welcome back to the merry go round of Indian sportingdom, Vijender.
And it is a merry-go-round.
Mary Kom is being forced to run from pillar to post just to ensure that the Indian Olympic Association files an application for a wild card entry with the International Olympic Commission.
Three wild card entries under the Tripartite Commission Invitation Places are up for grabs in three women’s weight categories — 51kg, 60kg and 75 kg.
These are usually used to promote sport in certain countries.
The IOC can allocate these to players of repute who fail to qualify.
But either the national federation or the national Olympic body has first to apply for a wild card entry.
That, unfortunately in Kom’s case, has not yet occurred.
The DNA listed the criteria for Invitation Places as follows:
“National Olympic Committee (NOC) priority: based on NOC preferences, as specified in the applications submitted
International Federation (IF) priority; based on the assessment of the athletes’ technical level and sporting merit during the qualification period
International Olympic Commission (IOC) priority; based on various principles in relation to the objectives of the commission, including:
NOC and athlete eligibility
Technical level to compete safely and with dignity
Olympic scholarships for athletes”
All this while the IOA’s first choice as Goodwill Ambassador, Salman Khan, steals the limelight with his ill-timed and ill-advised remark comparing his bodily aches post the intense workouts he endured shooting for his upcoming film ‘Sultan’ to those of a ‘raped woman’.
How much better it would have been had Salman Khan spoken a few words highlighting the travails that Indian sports persons undergo merely to participate in an Olympics.
That’s what ambassadors are for, that’s what they do.
Mary Kom’s application for a wild card entry has been rejected by AIBA. The IOC does not permit wild cards to players from nations who have eight or more representatives in a sport. India fielded eight or more boxers at the last two Games.