Indian boxers set off for youth meet

When India's nine-member boxing team sets off on Tuesday for the AIBA World Youth Championship, beginning April 25, they will be eyeing not only a rich medal haul to keep up with the recent Indian results across teh global stage but also a spot in the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.

The World Youth Championship was earlier supposed to begin on Friday but has been delayed after several competing teams were left grounded due to the volcanic ash over European skies.

The Indian team will now go via Moscow to avoid the European airspace for the tournament. The squad boasts of two Asian youth champions in Vikas Kishan (60kg) and Naveen Kumar (75kg), and the country's first-ever gold medallist at the prestigious Hyder Aliyev Cup for junior boxers, Shiva Thapa.

But the challenge will not be easy. A huge contingent of 555 boxers are participating from 110 countries across the world in the tournament, which is the only qualifying event for the Youth Olympics, to be held in Singapore in August-September.

"It's the biggest tournament of our careers so far and though the size of the draw is intimidating, we are confident of winning medals and making the cut for Youth Olympics," said Thapa.

Targetting the semis
All those who manage to reach the semi-finals of the event would qualify for the Youth Olympics, but given the huge size of the draw, it would be a daunting task to make that grade.

Joining hosts Azerbaijan with a full team of eleven boxers are traditional powerhouses Cuba, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkey, the Ukraine, Belarus and Hungary. Others like Uzbekistan, the United States, China, Germany, Iran and Turkmenistan will be taking part with 10 athletes.

The challenge may be tough but the Indian team also boasts of an accomplished line-up of boxers who have done well internationally. Devendro Singh Laishram (48kg) and Sumit Sangwan (81kg) were silver medallists at last moth's Asian Youth Championships in Iran. "It would be a difficult tournament no doubt but the boys are prepared and will do well," said coach G Manoharan.

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