The humble village of Bhallawgad in Faridabad may lie in Haryana, but unlike the boxing-crazy Bhiwani or the wrestling-mad Sonipat, it had no sporting leaning to speak about when Gaurav Solanki was growing up.
Yet, from a very young age sports were the only thing Solanki was drawn towards.
“Aandhi, toofan, barsaat kuch nahi dekhta tha khel ke saamne (He would not even care about the forces of nature when sport was involved),” Vijaypal Singh says a few hours after his son Gaurav Solanki won a gold medal for India at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in the 52kg weight class.
The lack of sporting culture where he came from was hardly going to deter Solanki from taking up boxing.
“There’s little sports culture back where I come from. But I hated staying at home. I couldn’t see past sports as a child. When I was young, my school introduced boxing as a sport. I enrolled in boxing classes thinking it would be fun. Socha mauj-masti karenge. Pata hi nahi chala kab ye profession ban gaya. (I thought I’ll have fun in boxing. But before I could even realise it, it became a profession for me),” Solanki says from Gold Coast.
There was another problem though: finances. The diet and conditioning required for a boxer put a severe strain on the budget of the family.
Vijaypal is a man of few words, but of grand gestures. About six years ago, when Gaurav started to show an aptitude in boxing, Vijaypal noticed that his income would not be able to keep pace. “Us samay kharcha jyaada hota tha, aur kamai kam. Is liye 50 gaz ka plot bhi bech diya tha. (Back then, the expenditure was lot, but the income, not so much. That’s why I sold a 50-yard plot to fund his boxing career),” offers Vijaypal.
Solanki says that he was too young to understand the sacrifices his family made when he was younger.
“When I decided to become a profession boxer, my family also vowed to do whatever it took to help me along. Be it proper diet necessary to become an elite boxer or other things, they went out of their way. They also ensured that whatever financial hardships they were facing, none of that reached me,” says Solanki.
Just like his father, Solanki too is a man who does not talk too much. Ask him what his boxing style is and he simply offers, “I can box defensive or offensively, depending on the situation and the opponent.” But put him in a boxing ring and the grammar of his punches is just perfect. The vocabulary of his ring-craft, impeccable. Just like a writer finding his words and punching away on a typewriter, Solanki worked at the bodies of his opponents with a rhythmic fury: jab, jab, jab, jab, jab! Eventually they all buckled, one after the other, from Ghana’s Akimos Ampiah to Northern Ireland’s Brendan Irvine, until Solanki stood atop the podium with a gold medal around his neck — a small thank you for the risks that his father took.
Solanki is one of the most promising boxers to have come up in the country in recent times, thanks to Boxing Federation of India's efforts to groom a younger generation of pugilists with an eye on Tokyo Olympics and beyond. Before he left for Australia, Solanki says he promised his father to translate that promise into results and come back with the gold. “Gold hi hota hai, use kam koi kya sochenge? (There’s only one medal in the world for me: gold. Below that, there’s nothing.)”
At Gold Coast, Solanki reaped the golden harvest of the seeds which his father sowed many years ago by selling off his plot.
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Updated Date: Apr 15, 2018 17:04:35 IST