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It’s a script that has gone ‘frustratingly wrong’ for Indian boxer Gaurav Bhiduri. After all, it is an absolute rarity to see a player go ‘out of selection reckoning’, after he had created history in becoming the fourth Indian after Vijender Singh, Vikas Yadav and Shiva Thapa to win a World Men’s Boxing Championship medal, a bronze at the 2017 edition in Hamburg, Germany. A World Championship medal is a phenomenal achievement, but what unfolded for Bhiduri after the marquee event can be best described as a Bollywood potboiler script. A spate of injuries, ailments and non-selection for national trials ensured the 26-year-old Delhi lad not having a crack at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games. “Look, your career graph goes up when you win a World Championship medal, but in my case, it took a big fall. Injuries have derailed my progress, but then it is never easy making a comeback after sustaining an injury,” he says with a sense of maturity. Gaurav Bhiduri with his World Championship medal in 2017 The bantamweight boxer was seething with excitement when the conversation revolved around the 2017 World Championship. Not many know that Bhiduri did not gain direct entry for the big-ticket event and only made it through the ‘wildcard’ route. “I had lost in the quarterfinals of the 2017 Asian Championship in a close fight and was battling with sciatica (back pain). I was training in France along with my back pain when I got the news that AIBA has given me a wildcard for the World Championship.
“Crossing the quarterfinal hurdle has always been a challenge for me. I have lost in quarterfinals so many times in my 14 years of boxing career. Nobody remembers you if you lose in the last-eight stage, but if you enter the semifinals, you get a medal and you are remembered. So I was relieved to get over the quarterfinal hurdle at the 2017 World Championship and win a bronze,” quips Bhiduri. Gaurav Bhidhuri laments he did not get due recognition even after 2017 World Championship medal The initial excitement of the youngster gave away to disappointment, when he bemoaned about the lack of ‘desired recognition’ that comes with bagging a World Championship medal. “I was used to see people like Vijender and others being felicitated at the airport and cash awards pouring in from all quarters. To be honest, I was expecting the same but was left deeply disappointed that I hardly got any recognition for my World Championship effort barring cash awards from my federation and the central government. I was the first Delhi boy to win a World Championship medal and really felt bad that the Delhi government did not offer me any cash award,” Bhiduri vents his frustration. The youngster, who is coached by his father Dharmendra Bhiduri (himself a former national-level boxer), personally met up with the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal after his World Championship exploits. “I met the Delhi CM sir and was told that the Delhi government has no sports policy and cannot do anything about it (giving cash awards).” Gaurav Bhiduri won a bronze medal at the Indian Open and a silver medal at the President’s Cup in Indonesia Bhiduri chose to give the 2017 Senior Nationals and the 2018 Indian Open a miss to get over his injury niggles. His boxing career was shrouded with uncertainty as he was not invited to the selection trials for the 2018 Commonwealth Games and 2018 Asian Games on the grounds that he hasn’t played enough competitive boxing due to his injury-induced absence from the ring.
"I played the marquee event carrying my back injury – I was training as well as skipping a few sessions as I could not sprint nor stand for 15-20 minutes as the pain would radiate to the legs. I was so glad to bring home a medal,” says the fluent English-speaking Indian Railways pugilist, who contrived to breach his 'quarterfinal jinx’.
Bhiduri soaked in everything gracefully and approached 2019 with positive intent. He won a bronze medal at the Indian Open and a silver medal at the President’s Cup in Indonesia, but missed out on the 2019 World Championship after failing to make the cut in the 56-kg category. One hopes that Bhiduri will make the most of the upcoming 2019 Senior Nationals and much-talked-about boxing league to press for a place in the national side for the Olympic qualifiers and subsequently a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. “I lost one year of boxing after my World Championship medal, but I cannot look back. I’m determined to win an Olympic medal and will strive for it,” Bhiduri signs off exuding a feeling of being ‘hurt’ at the way his career panned after his 2017 World Championship exploits.
“Not getting picked in the trials for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games was the lowest point of my boxing career – it affected everyone in my family – my father’s blood pressure used to shoot up and the whole family was stressed out.”