New Delhi: He is just back from winning the biggest medal of his career but Indian boxer Kavinder Singh Bisht is still a slightly disappointed man. The reason: "I feel othered by my own state."
The boxer won a 56kg category silver medal at the Asian Championship in Bangkok last week, fighting his final bout with an injury above his right eye which opened up to make it a bloody affair. Hailing from Uttarakhand, the 26-year-old Bisht told PTI that his state's "refusal to even acknowledge his performance" because he represents the Services Sports Control Board (SSCB) in the national championships, upsets him during what should be a celebratory moment.
"They say I can't be acknowledged till the time I compete for Uttarakhand at the national competitions," the boxer, who is employed with the Indian Air Force (IAF), said.
"So I am an Uttarakhandi but the government of Uttarakhand will not take note of my accomplishments because I represent the Services. If I don't compete for my state, it won't matter to them what I achieve," he added.
It is not uncommon for state governments to honour athletes who are representing other units.
The Haryana government, for instance, honours and rewards its top athletes even if they are not employed with it and so do other states.
"But such a policy does not exist in Uttarakhand. An athlete who doesn't represent the state in national competitions will not get any rewards from the state. But the local state unit of the federation does what it can for him," said a Boxing Federation of India official. Bisht hopes that the policy will change if he continues to bring laurels internationally.
"I can't run after them. I enquired once after the World Championships in 2017 when I made the quarterfinals on debut and I was told about the policy. I have not checked after that, what's the point," he said.
"It is just disheartening, but what can you do, have to do your job and hope for the best, which is what I do. But how can you not even send a congratulatory message on something like this (Asian Championship silver)?" he asked of the state's political class.
"Is it too much to ask? But yeah, I can't force them to talk about me if they don't want to. Funny part is that in news reports, I am rarely called a Services guy, I am always addressed as Uttarakhand boxer," he added with a wry smile.
Speaking of challenges inside the ring, Bisht, who won a gold medal at a tournament in Finland last month, said he would be going up from 56kg to 57kg after the latter division was made an Olympic weight category.
"That would be my weight for the World Championships and I am happy. Going up a category is never an issue for me, it's reducing that kills me. When I was competing in 52kg, I used to starve, even avoid looking at food because that would make me feel weak," he recalled.
"So, I am glad that I would be competing in a slightly higher weight in the World Championships (in September in Russia)," he added.