Quarantined in Spain after testing positive for COVID-19 during a tournament early this month, Olympic-bound Indian boxer Ashish Kumar is on his way back to the country after recovering from the infection. The 26-year-old middle-weight (75kg) boxer tested positive for the dreaded virus on the eve of the Boxam International final in Castellon on March 7, forcing his withdrawal from the competition along with two others -- Sumit Sangwan (81kg) and Mohammed Hussamuddin (57kg) who were his roommates.
Sangwan and Hussamuddin returned to India with the rest of the team after testing negative. Ashish, however, was quarantined in his hotel room in Castellon. "I have tested negative now, I will be back today," Ashish, a silver-medallist from the 2019 Asian Championships, told PTI from Castellon on Saturday when he boarded the return flight to India.
The sturdily built boxer from Himachal Pradesh's Sundar Nagar town in Mandi district, was asymptomatic through the quarantine period. "I was tested on the semifinal day and by evening, I was out of the final after it came out positive. I have no idea how it happened. To be honest, I was a bit scared when the report came out because nobody knew how it would impact me. But I haven't felt anything physically," he said. "So, here I was, without any symptoms, simply locked in a room. What could I do? Just wait for it to get over," he added.
"The Spanish federation took good care of me. Everything was in order and I had a spacious room. So, I could thankfully do my workout during the quarantine. The federation was also in regular touch with me over phone." The 2015 national champion is headed to his first Olympic Games. His boxing journey began when he was in school, encouraged by his late father Bhagat Ram and cousin brother Jhonny Chaudhary, a national level wrestler.
"I was never interested in studies, it wasn't meant for me. I was lucky that I had a supportive father, who could understand my dream of being a sportsperson. He was a kabaddi player himself," the boxer recalled. Ashish's father died in February last year, a month before he qualified for the Olympics by reaching the semifinals of the Asian Qualifiers in Jordan. He is hoping to make it special in his very first outing at the biggest stage of all.
"I am working hard towards ensuring that I do well at the Games. The preparation has been excellent so far. "This quarantine here is a minor thing. In fact, it was a blessing disguise because I got some rest after high-intensity training and competition for the past few months," he said. Ashish was part of the over 50-day tour of Europe in the last quarter of 2020 during which he competed in two tournaments -- in France and Germany -- winning gold in the former event. Before the tournament in Spain, he was training at Bengaluru and Patiala along with the rest of the team.
So far, nine Indian boxers -- five men and four women -- have qualified for the Games, postponed to this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic.