Here are our future Olympic boxers
Making the cut to the Olympics himself in 1988 and missing a medal by a mere point, Pune based boxing coach Manoj Pingale is all set to train and coach players to compete internationally
His eyes started watering as he remembered an incident from almost two decades ago. He had been training since he was ten with a vision to create history. When he missed the bronze medal by one point at the 1988 Olympics held in Seoul, South Korea, he had sworn to find a way to get it. He trained harder for the next four years but as luck would have it, a muscle tear near his right shoulder, only shattered his dream the second time as he could not compete with the injury. Since then all he has wanted was a medal from the Olympics and now he sees it around the necks of the young boys and girls who he trains through his academy.
This is the story of Manoj Pingale, 48, a passionate boxer. Dressed in simple jeans and T-shirt, he has absolutely no airs about himself, is extremely modest, and almost always wears a smile. Training 60-odd kids on a ground given to them by a Parsi trust, he ensures that he doesn’t let anything hamper their routine. Given the lack of facilities since there is no roof above their head, practices come to a halt during the monsoons.
Irrespective of this and the many other adversities that they face, their determination and passion which makes them come for practice every single day is commendable beyond doubt. With the correct guidance and adequate facilities, it is safe to say that there is an entire bunch of boxers willing to sweat it, chase their dreams, and make the country proud if only they had the opportunity. TGS visited the ground in Rasta Peth where these young kids practice with their coach Pingale, and spent some time there. We spoke to a few of them and learned about what makes them so determined about the sport and the challenges they face.
Their fitness expert PVK Raman told us about the nutritional requirements of playing the sport and what must be done to ensure that these children get it in adequate amounts.
‘My dream is to earn a medal for India’
It was on his way to school that he would often stand outside a boxing academy admiring the agility and stamina with which the boxers moved inside the ring. Soon enough he found his way inside and without his parents learning of what he was up to, he managed to attend practice every single day. It was only when he had won a competition and his name had appeared in the newspaper did they know that their son was a boxer. His father owned a newspaper stall and his mother was a housewife. Even then when they found out about his passion they whole-heartedly supported him.
“My dream is to earn a medal for India. I remember every single detail of the match when I lost. It affects me even today that I could not win it at that time. The only thing I have on my mind every single waking moment is to be able to train the kids that have the talent in the hope that I can live my dream through them,” he said. He currently has about 60 under-privileged children who train under him.
Pingale represented India at the Olympics in 1988 and had even played at the Asian Games earlier where he had won a gold medal. He had also won ten state championships in a row and was only 18 years old when he made it to the Indian Senior boxing team. On the international level he has five gold medals and one bronze medal too.
The biggest challenge that he faces while training these children is the lack of facilities. There is no support from the federation either and so currently all the equipment that is being used is funded by Pingale himself or private sponsors. “There is a need to start building these players from the grassroots level. The kids that come to me are already struggling to make ends meet and so we do not take any fees from them. Their passion and dedication towards me and the sport is all that matters to me and pushes me to try my best every single minute,” he said. Pingale is also on the selection committee for the Indian Boxing Team. He was also conferred the Arjuna Award given to a sportsman for outstanding achievements at the national level, in 1993.
The son of a railway employee, Kuldeep Kushwah has been an admirer of boxing for the last five years. Currently pursuing his graduation in commerce from Ness Wadia College, he hopes to someday represent India in a boxing match and take up the sport professionally. His uncle was a boxer and since he grew up seeing him play, he doesn’t even know when he fell in love with the sport. “There is nothing about boxing that I do not like.
While I am a little weak when it comes to stamina, I will give it my all to ensure that it doesn’t hinder my achievements in the sport,” the 17-year-old said. Kushwah has till date played three state matches and has won one gold, silver, and bronze at these competitions. He also featured in the nationals in 2014 where he got a silver medal. In addition to this, he has played innumerable matches representing his school and college. The young boy knows that tomorrow even if he wishes to take up a job he will choose not to completely give up on boxing ever.
It takes him about an hour to get to the ground to practice every single day. Living with his parents in Loni, Pawan Gaikwad who is 16 years old, was hooked to the sport after he saw a few matches on the television. Studying commerce at NGS Boys High School, he has been a boxer since he was in the fourth grade. His father is a farmer and sometimes accompanies him to the ground to see his son play. “I don’t think I want to do anything other than be a boxer in the future. Pingale sir thinks I have the potential to go for it and I will not leave any stone unturned to get there. Playing for the Indian team is my dream,” he said. Gaikwad has several times represented his school in boxing matches and was even selected at for the India camp of that age group.
The fitness expert
A retired army athlete, PVK Raman, currently looks after the health and fitness of the kids boxing at Manoj Pingale’s academy. He served for 24 years in the army and was even helping the Indian hockey team with their fitness. One of the problems that these boxers face is that of not getting enough nutrition to develop and combat the amount of training that they do. Endurance, stamina and agility training must begin right from when a kid is three years old, believes Raman. Coupled with the correct amount of nutrition a child’s body then develops well and their physical needs can be met with such an aggressive sport, he explained.
“To set records or even reach and compete on the international level, the basics must be very strong. Currently our kids don’t even qualify for the local tournaments since they do not fit the weight criteria for their age. If at the grassroots level itself care isn’t taken, then it only becomes tougher as they grow up,” he said. Raman feels that there is a lot that the kids can do and achieve if they get the right kind of opportunity. He helps out Pingale by training them too, focusing majorly on increasing their strength, which is something that a boxer can’t do without.
Lending a helping hand
A hub that breathes creativity when it comes to fitness, Multifit Gym located in Koregaon Park is the place to be for all your health goals. Started by Samir Kapoor, the gym not only provides you with equipment and facilities but also offers you other sports like boxing and martial arts. Born and brought up in an army background, Kapoor loved the adrenaline rush and this is what actually pushed him to start MultiFit.
Focusing on functional training the philosophy of the gym is to create a community of fitness enthusiasts making it a long-term goal and integrating it in one’s lifestyle. What Kapoor noticed was that most of the people that went to a gym decided to go to get physically fit rather than for muscle. But all these people also believed that machines were the way to get to their goal. This is what he hoped to change. Taking this very thought forward, when Kapoor found out that Pingale who teaches boxing at Multifit, runs an academy to help build world-class boxers, he wanted to do something to help. “I remember Pingale telling me that he spent 12 years training to fight nine minutes in the ring. For some reason this stuck with me and on talking to him further I found out about all the problems that they were facing at the academy. I asked him to come up with a plan and promised to financially and logistically help out as much as I could,” he said.
Pingale has the permission to take his students to the boxing ring in Multifit any time of the day to train them. Since his dream is to send his players to the Olympics, he will now begin to finalise a few who he believes can make the cut and Kapoor will sponsor everything that they need till the 2020 Olympics and maybe even after. This is something that the two of them hope will change the way the sport is seen in this cricket crazy country and also motivate many more to take it up. You encourage the lot that is already training, Kapoor has also declared cash prizes worth Rs 50,000 for the gold medal winner, Rs 40,000 for the one that gets silver and Rs 30,000 for the one with the bronze at the national level matches.
Originally published on The Golden Sparrow