Vikas Krishan, Manoj Kumar through to Rio Olympics, Sumit Sangwan in hunt despite loss
Baku: Asian Games champion Vikas Krishan (75kg) and former Commonwealth Games gold-medallist Manoj Kumar (64kg) secured their place in the Olympic Games by advancing to the semi-finals of the International Boxing Association's (AIBA) World Qualifying Tournament with dominating performances on Thursday.
While Manoj thrashed Tajikistan's Rakhimov Shavkatdzhon, second seed Vikas got past Korea's Lee Dongyun in the quarter-finals by a similar margin of 3-0.
However, Sumit Sangwan (81kg) lost to top seed Petr Khamukov but continues to be in the hunt for a quota berth as the fifth available spot in his category will go to the lucky quarter-final loser, whose opponent goes on to win the gold medal.
Manoj will next face European champion Pat McCormack of Britain in the semi-final tomorrow. McCormack defeated Frenchman Amzile Hassan in his quarter-final bout.
"Given the terrible state in which boxing is right now, I am relieved to have qualified for the Games. There was a lot of pressure on the team which is competing here and I am glad that I came good," Manoj told PTI.
"I am immensely thankful to the coaches, the Sports Ministry, the national coaching staff, the Sports Authority of India and my personal coach Rajesh, who is also my elder brother. Their efforts have helped me pull it off," he added.
Vikas, on the other hand, will be up against Turkmenistan's Achilov Arslanbek, who got past Italian Cavallaro Salvatore in his quarter-final contest.
"I am extremely delighted to have secured the Olympic quota. It has been a long journey with quite a few ups and downs. I was confident in my abilities and always believed that I had what it took to reach the Olympics and put up a strong performance on that stage. My coaching staff along with my backers JSW have always had faith in me and I am glad that I have managed to justify that when it mattered," he said.
"I knew I could clinch the quota. It was important to put everything on the line, not hold anything back but at the same time fight in an intelligent manner. I have another big bout coming up and right now, I really want to go all the way here," he added.
Vikas and Manoj took the total number of Indian boxers assured of Olympic berths to three as Shiva Thapa (56kg) had made the cut for Rio during the Asian Qualifiers in March.
National coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu described the duo's performance on Thursday as dominating.
"Manoj dominated all three rounds and boxed intelligently to win and qualify for the Games," Sandhu said.
"Vikas was similarly commanding in his performance and sailed past his opponent," he added.
Vikas, however, is a doubtful starter at tomorrow's semi-final as he has sustained a cut on his face. Both Vikas and Manoj had competed in the 2012 London Games as well. While Manoj had lost in the quarterfinals, Vikas was ousted in the preliminaries.
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