Sport knows no borders.
Vijender Singh, a bronze medalist for India at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the middleweight category, has embraced professionalism.
The boxer has moved to London after signing a contract with Queensberry Promotions that will see him fight a minimum of six bouts in his first year as a pro.
The celebrated pugilist brings the curtain down on his aspirations of a medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
His current employers, the Haryana police, objected to Vijender’s move claiming that he cannot serve two masters—Mammon and the Indian public, at large.
Vijender is currently on probation as a DSP.
“I don’t want to compare myself to a legend like Pacquiao, but if I can achieve even half of what he has, I will consider myself successful.
Just like how Pacquiao carried the Phillipines flag and (Floyd) Mayweather Jr carried the US flag to their bout, I will carry the Indian flag to my bouts. I’ve taken Indian boxing to a new, untested level and opened international avenues for our boxers. This cannot be viewed as un-patriotic.”
The Bhiwani lad has always sought the limelight and is considered the glamour boy of Indian boxing.
His clean-cut good looks made him a favorite with advertisers and a brief doping (heroin) scandal did nothing to sully his reputation. The slugger also starred in a Bollywood film Fugly that released in 2014.
Vijender is not the first Indian boxer to turn professional but he could be one of the best and turn the spotlight back on a sport that has lost its luster with a disaffiliated and derecognized national boxing federation unable to send Indian fighters to participate in international tournaments.
Indian boxing needs another shot in the arm and this could very well be it.
It was 1988. It was the Summer Olympics in Seoul. Johnson had set the 100 meters world record of 9.83 seconds the previous year. Johnson, however, had injury problems coming into the Games. A hamstring injury had plagued him the whole season.
Johnson won. He also set a new world record: 9.79 seconds.
And then it ended almost as soon as it began.
The man was a cheat.
Johnson’s blood and urine samples were found to contain stanozolol.
The last citadel had been breached.
The Olympics , when it first begun, was celebrated as a coming together of amateur athletes under the Olympic motto “Citius, Altius, Fortius” which is Latin for “Faster,Higher, Stronger.”
Amateurism made way for professionalism beginning gradually in the 1970s.
Sport was no longer clean or for fun. It was competition–cutthroat competition.
Every millisecond, every millimeter counted.
1988 also saw the International Olympic Committee (IOC) declaring all professional athletes eligible for the Olympics, subject to the approval of the international federations in charge of each sport.
Only soccer and baseball disallow pros at the Olympics.
Thus began the age of disillusion.
If Johnson could cheat, then how many others?
Reports of systematic doping in East European countries did nothing to counteract such perceptions.
More recently, Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.
Armstrong, a cancer survivor, indulged in blood doping throughout his career.
In an interview with the Telegraph, Armstrong says:
“I’m that guy everybody wants to pretend never lived. But it happened, everything happened. We know what happened. Now it’s swung so far the other way… who’s that character in Harry Potter they can’t talk about? Voldemort? It’s like that on every level. If you watch the Tour on American TV, if you read about it, it’s as if you can’t mention him.”
The Texan is riling his opponents once more by participating in the One Day Ahead ride, cycling part of the Tour de France route. The ride raises money to fight leukemia.
It is time we admit that we cannot hold our sporting heroes to a higher standard. They engage in a profession where every bit done can make a difference between winning and losing, between being the face of a shoe brand or simply being an also-ran.
Our modern-day heroes have feet of clay. We should learn to expect that they will disappoint us someday. They cannot be placed on a pedestal.
“But wait,”, you say, “these are the very personas my kids look up to.”
Yes, but isn’t that a reflection of the society and times we live in?
Children look up to actors and rock stars too. Are they held to a higher standard?
Then why sports persons?
Shouldn’t we teach our kids to look for heroes elsewhere? Real-life heroes.
After a famous victory over Pakistan in the Asia Cup, Indian sport has another reason to celebrate with Saina Nehwal crowning herself with back-to-back victories at the Grand Prix India Open and the Super-Series Singapore Open. The Singapore Open is her second Super Series win following her victory at the Indonesian Open last year.
This is just the latest in a string of achievements by this young shuttler in a sport in which India is not renowned to be a powerhouse. Nonetheless, Indian badminton can boast of some noteworthy successes namely Prakash Padukone, the tragic Syed Modi and more recently Pulella Gopichand ,who also happens to be Nehwal’s coach.
This young 20 year old is the latest star in the firmament of Indian badminton and more importantly Indian sport. And that is something to celebrate because for a nation of over a billion people, we have far too few sport stars our youngsters can model themselves on.
Quote of the day:
I like life. It’s something to do. – Ronnie Shakes