New Delhi: When he missed out on Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award in 2012, boxer Vikas Krishan, then 20, made peace with the fact that it was an Olympic year and London Games medallists – shooter Vijay Kumar and wrestler Yogeshwar Dutt – leapfrogged him to the top honour. Ronjan Sodhi, nominated for Khel Ratna alongside Vikas, was ignored too, though the trap shooter was awarded the next year. For Vikas though, the wait has stretched into its eighth year.
Older, wiser and a lot more successful, Vikas claims he is not disappointed at the snub. He speaks with a diplomatic equanimity that is hard to find in the face of denial and abstains from name-calling that some of the other athletes, justifiably or otherwise, have resorted to.
“Winning or not winning awards is a part of an athlete’s life and we must accept it. Ultimately, what happens, happens for the best.
“I am not disappointed or hurt. There’s nothing much to say either. I congratulate all the winners and wish them more success. The selection committee is very intelligent and competent, and I accept their decision with all humility,” he told Firstpost from Bhiwani in Haryana.
Vikas, the only male boxer in the country to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth as well as Asian Games, has been a consistent performer for a while now. His trophy cabinet boasts of continental and world medals, but it is the missing Olympic medal that he dreams of.
“I am a very positive person and I look at things with a lot of optimism. Had I won a Khel Ratna this year, who knows, I could have become complacent. But this snub has kept the fire burning in me. I am still hungry for success and I am working hard for the Olympics. When I will return with Olympic gold, the committee will have to acknowledge my performance and recommend me for a Khel Ratna,” Vikas, only the second Indian boxer to qualify for three Olympics, said.
While the sheer number of awardees in what turned out to be a non-Olympic year – 27 Arjuna, five Khel Ratnas, 13 Dronacharya – has copped criticism from a number of quarters, boxing seems to have attracted its own share of controversies.
World Championships (2019) silver medallist (52 kg) Amit Panghal missed out on Khel Ratna after being ignored for Arjuna for past three years, thanks to an inadvertent doping violation in 2012. Then, there is the case of boxer Manoj Kumar’s brother-coach Rajesh Kumar Rajound who has been ignored for the Dronacharya award. A miffed Manoj has shot off a letter to the sports minister, while Rajound has made his displeasure clear in a series of tweets.
Vikas chose to distance himself from the controversies but suggested a relook at the selection criterion for sports awards.
“If you look at Amit’s case, he was a kid when he committed that doping offence. Maybe, in future, the selection committee or the sports ministry should look to go easy in certain cases. Likewise, the criterion for awarding Khel Ratna should be reassessed too. Since it is the highest sporting honour of the country, I think the performance of an athlete across his or her career, and not just of the past four years, should be taken into account,” he opined.
On boxing front, Vikas is aiming to train in the US and has sought permission from TOPS CEO Rajesh Rajagopalan for the same. His coaches and the Boxing Federation of India are on board with his plans and depending on TOPS’ go-ahead, he plans to travel to the US in the first week of September.
“I want to train like a professional boxer to boost my chances in the amateur circuit. Professional boxing, as I have said, is a lot tougher and that training will hold me in good stead ahead of the Olympics. As for the pro bouts, I will figure them out when I am in the US. My focus is to come home with an Olympic gold next year, awards will follow,” he concluded.