London: Last month, Vijender Singh spoke about his desire to dish out a dream performance in front of a large Indian gathering here.
The Indian fans, Vijender was confident then, would come in large numbers to back his campaign for a second Olympic boxing medal.
Given the way thing are moving at the ExCel Arena now, Vijender, it seems, is all set to realise his dream. On Thursday night, the Beijing bronze medallist played a brilliant tactical game to hold off the lightning fast American Terrell Gausha in the round of 16 middleweight contest.
The atmosphere was such that it looked Vijender was playing back home at the Talkatora Indoor Stadium. The majority of spectators at the packed ExCel Arena were Indians and they were never shy of rooting for Vijender.
Huge chants of “India, India” could be heard from the moment the bout started and every time Vijender landed a punch on his aggressive rival, the crowd went absolutely berserk. “There was times when I thought I was fighting in India,” said a relieved Vijender after the bout. “It was a very tough fight but our fans made it bit easy for me. I hope to make them happy by winning a medal,” he added.
He will now fight Uzbek boxer Abbos Atoev for a place in the semi-final. Victory over Atoev will assure Vijender of a medal, as both losing semi-finalists are given bronze in the competition.
The 26-year-old Indian had a measure of his opponent in the first round, which he won 4-3, though the immensely talented Gausha did let loose a flurry of punches. Gausha went on the offensive in the initial moments of round two, but Vijender avoided most of the blows with his constant movements and then launched into the attack.
Krishna Poonia, meanwhile, qualified for the discus throw final with an impressive hurl of 63.54m.
Poonia thus became only the sixth Indian to make it to the final round of track and field events in Olympics after Milkha Singh, P T Usha, S Sriram, Gurbachan Singh Randhawa and Anju Bobby George.
In hockey, India slumped to a humiliating 2-5 defeat against Germany to crash out of the semi-final race in the men’s hockey competition.
For the Indians, VR Raghunath (13th) and Tushar Khandeker (63rd) reduced the margin.