Vijender Singh after his victory over Kazakhstan’s Danabek Suzhanov, in London, on Saturday. (PTI)
London: Vijender Singh’s Saturday night show was super hit in front of the capacity crowd at the ExCel Arena. With the boxing venue for the Olympics almost turning into mini-India, the Beijing Olympic bronze medallist came up with an excellent performance defeating Danabek Suzhanov of Kazakhstan 14-10 in the first round.
In the next round, Vijender’s opponent would be American pugilist Terrell Gausha.
But those who know Vijender closely were a surprised lot including his coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu. While the crowd, dominated by the Indians, lustily cheering their “Haryana hero”, Vijender remained a cool customer. Contrary to his earlier style of aggressive boxing, Vijender was a picture of patience and concentration.
“Even I was surprised by Vijender’s style,” said Sandhu. “Never for a moment he lost his focus and took rather defensive postures in the initial two rounds. His maturity has grown tremendously. He was waiting for his opponent to commit the mistake and then go for the strike.”
Vijender said he was aware of the presence of the Indians in the stands but did not want to go for a crowd-pleasing performance. “Don’t talk about winning a medalů Dilli abhi bahut duur hai (Delhi is still far away). All I knew that I have to win. I was determined not to lose the focus.”
Egged on by the vociferous expatriate Indians, Vijender opened up a 5-4 lead in the opening round, despite missing a few good scoring chances. The Indian kept his composure in the next round, notwithstanding Suzhanov’s bid to overturn the script and widened the gulf to 9-7. Of special mention was a lightning left hook followed by a right uppercut unleashed by the Indians, both of which proved productive.
Apart from Vijender, the Indians expected to receive some good news from Wimbledon where all Indian stars were scheduled to play in men’s singles and doubles. But barring Somdev Dev Varman’s singles match against Jarrko Nieminen, none of the matches could even be started because of rain.
Somdev was down 3-6, 0-1 when the match was stopped. Meanwhile, Vishnu Vardhan got a lucky place in the men’s singles draw replacing German Philipp Kohlschreiber who pulled out of the Olympics with a hamstring injury. Vardhan was also set to take on Blaz Kavicic of Slovenia in the first round.
Among the winners on the second day was Vijender’s teammate Jai Bhagwan. Participating in his maiden Olympics at the age of 26, Bhagwan was in complete control of the bout as he thrashed his opponent Andrique Allisop of Seychelles 18-8 in the opening round. Bhagwan will now face Gani Zhailauov of Kazakhstan in the pre-quarter finals.
Single sculls rower Swarn Singh Virk and double sculls duo of Sandeep Kumar and Manjeet Singh also stayed in the medal hunt, but paddler Soumyajit Ghosh, women shooters and the archers put up a flop show yet again.
India’s challenge in table tennis came to an end as Soumyajit crashed out after suffering a 1-4 defeat at the hands of North Korea’s Hyok Bong Kim in a second round men's singles encounter.
“I got bit overconfident after winning the first game,” conceded Soumyajit later. “My opponent, however, came back strongly thereafter. Obviously, he was more experiencedů I learned a lot from this Olympics.”
But disappointments continued at the Lord's, venue of archery competitions, where the women’s team was off target in crunch situations as it lost to Denmark by a point in a see-saw pre-quarterfinal battle.
Indian shooters continued to be way off the mark as Heena Sidhu and Annu Raj Singh bowed out of the women’s 10m air pistol event after failing to qualify for the finals.