'I made mistakes and fell into his trap'
Vijender Singh was India's hero four years ago in Beijing when he won the bronze medal in boxing. He came close to replicating that feat again at the London Games but was undone by tactical errors.
He lost to Uzbekistan's Abbas Atoev 17-13 in the quarter-finals of the middleweight 75 kg category in which many experts believe he was also victim of some unfair decision by the judges.
Consequently, Vijender missed the chance of winning two Olympic medals and become India's greatest sportsperson ever by.
But the 26-year-old is not crying over split milk. He is looking at the future with a vengeance as he switches his weight category to 81 kg and is hoping to learn from his mistakes at London.
In an exclusive interview with Rediff.com's Harish Kotian, Vijender analyses his performance in London and reveals the reason for switching his weight category.
Some experts have said that you were robbed of a victory in the quarter-final bout against Uzbekistan's Abbos Atoev. Did you feel the same?
According to me, the first round was equal. My coaches had said that I should have been up a point in that round but it was not so. In the second round too, he got an advantage of two points. If those two points would have come in my favour then I would have won the bout.As far as the fight is concerned, yes I made some mistakes. I fell into his trap and did not score as many points as I should have.
Photographs: Murad Sezer/Reuters
'I made a mistake by going aggressive'
You also injured yourself in the second round. What exactly was the injury and how much did it affect you?
I was suffering from a back problem before the bout and when we clashed during the second round I injured my back and it is still injured. It hampered me a lot because when your back is injured all your movements are blocked.
In the quarter-final bout you were keen on attacking as against your normal ploy of concentrating on defence. Why this change of strategy?
After the first round ended on level (3-3), I thought of going a bit more aggressive in the second round in an effort to score more points. That was a big mistake on my part. Had I not tried so hard then our points would have been equal after the second round and maybe I could have won the next round then.
You took a few punches at the end of the second round which cost you a couple of points. Did that make the difference to the eventual score?When I saw the score at the end of the second round, I realised I was down by two points. So I had no choice but to go on an all-out attack in the third if I had to win the bout. I tried to attack more but it cost me. I committed some mistake and my opponent made most of it and scored a few points to clinch victory.
Photographs: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
'Reaching the quarter-finals at the Olympics is a big achievement in itself'
You came very close to becoming the great Indian Olympian because no one has ever won two medals at the Games. How disappointing is it to miss out on an Olympic medal after coming so close?
I am not disappointed because I lost. I believe that winning and losing are part of sports. Every sportsperson plays to win and I also did the same but it didn't work out. But I think reaching even the quarter-finals at the Olympic Games is a big achievement in itself.
There is a lot more years in me. I will be taking part in a lot of competitions in the future where I will get a chance to make up for his this loss against Ateov.
What are the positives you take from the London Games?
A person always learns from his failures. I have learnt a lot from my defeat here and in future too I will continue to learn. Whatever mistakes I have made during the fight or with regard my stay or diet, that won't be repeated in the future.
Photographs: AP Photo/Ivan Sekretarev
'Switching to 81kg category presents a new challenge'
You have also revealed that you will be switching your weight category after the Games. Why are you making the change?
Yes, I will be switching to the 81 kg weight category. From now on I will prepare myself for that. In the next competition, I will be fighting in that category.
I have been fighting in the 75 kg category for the last six-seven years and now I wanted a change that is why I decided to switch to the 81 kg. It also gives me a chance to fight against new boxers, which will be another new challenge for me and I am looking forward to it.
Despite failing to win a medal in London, you must be proud of what you have achieved for Indian boxing. You won the bronze medal at the previous Olympic Games in Beijing and showed the way forward for Indian boxers. Do you feel proud to be the one who has changed the face of Indian boxing?
As you can see, so much has changed in Indian boxing after Beijing and it was all because of one medal. So if we manage to win another couple of medals, maybe even a gold, then things will get even better.
But I am happy that Indian boxing is progressing in the right direction and our levels have improved in the last few years.
Devendro Singh and MC Mary Kom are still fighting in this competition and I want them to win medals because I want India to do better than last time in boxing.
Mary has also secured a medal and I am hoping Devendro can also do well in his next bout and win India another medal.I am really hoping and praying that they end up winning the gold medal because that will be a big achievement for Indian boxing.
Photographs: Parivartan Sharma/Reuters
'I am 100 percent sure that Mary will win gold'
What do you think of Mary Kom's achievement of winning a medal on her Olympic debut?
Mary Kom is an unbelievable boxer. She has won the World Championship five times and is one of the best boxers the world has seen. I am 100 percent sure that she will win the gold medal.
This has been India's most successful Olympic Games in terms of number of medals.
You have been a part of the previous two Olympics as well, in Athens and Beijing. How different has been the mindset of the Indian contingent this time?
It has been very good. But there have also been some shocks like Abhinav Bindra not winning a medal. But I am happy that we won more medals than before and I am sure that in the future Games the medal count will keep rising. It is a sign that Indian sports is growing and this will help us produce us more champions in the future.
Photographs: AP Photo/Mike Groll