Life hasn’t been easy for boxer Manoj Kumar. One of the country’s leading pugilists, he had to fight against his opponents but also had to wage battles outside the ring also. For someone without a sponsor the 29-year-old Haryana boxer showed immense guts and gumption to qualify for the Rio Olympics and join a select band of sportspersons who have qualified for their second Olympics.
“I know the amount of struggle I had to undertake in order to achieve my dream of qualifying for the Rio Olympics in the 64kg category. What made things tougher was the fact that I had to manage the foreign trips on my own. Now for an ordinary person like me, its very difficult to manage without sponsorship,:” he said.
Lack of sponsorship has been the biggest hurdle for Manoj. The 29-year-old had to overcome a major setback sometime back. ‘A sports management company who was helping me out financially for some years suddenly pulled out nearly a year ago. They did this without any prior notice and I was suddenly stranded. By the grace of God, I was able to come out of this predicament,” he said.
Manoj also credited his family support for tiding through the crisis. “I want to state one thing here. I don’t think but for the solid support of my family I would not have been able to tide through this crisis. They were always there for me and my elder brother Rajesh Kumar, I would not have been able to qualify for the Rio Olympics,” he said.
Manoj also expressed his heartfelt gratitude to his support staff. “ I must express my sincere gratitude to my coaches. Also I want to thank the the Sports Ministry, the national coaching staff, the Sports Authority of India and my personal coach Rajesh, who is also my elder brother. But for their efforts, I could not have qualifed," Manoj said
After his qualification for the Rio Games in June, Manoj has been adopted by the Target Olympics Podium (TOP) a government scheme which financially helps athletes who have qualified for Rio. “I must admit that after qualification the TOP scheme has proved to be quite beneficial to me. Now I don’t have to worry that much about managing my finances,” he said.
Another problem which Manoj had to face was that the Indian boxing federation is not recognized by the world boxing body AIBA. “There are a lot of problems for Indian boxers because of the lack of recognition of the Indian boxing federation. This is a real hassle for us but there is nothing we can do right now about it,” said Manoj.
When asked about his aim at the Olympics, Manoj said he was targeting a medal. “But then the problem is the competition is very tough. After all the world’s best are in the business for the elusive medal. I think winning an Olympic medal is the cherished dream of every athlete. I also have my task cut out in this endeavour,” he said.
Podium finish is nothing new for Manoj who has won gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 2010 and a bronze at the Asian Boxing championships. “I know what it takes to win a medal at the international level. Lots of sweat and toil—there is no shortcut to success and I am sure that I have put in the hardwork to realize my ambition,” he added.