BEIJING (AFP) — Indian middleweight Vijender Kumar was mobbed by dozens of excited journalists after sealing the country's first ever Olympic boxing medal on Wednesday.
Kumar was vigorously hugged and kissed by Indian media as he left the Workers Stadium arena after his historic 9-4 victory over Carlos Gongora of Ecuador.
The 23-year-old bus-driver's son, and part-time model, said he fought the bout of his life to reach the semi-finals. Two other Indian boxers, both also named Kumar, were eliminated in the last eight.
"This is a great day for Indian boxing. We've been under a lot of pressure recently so one of us had to do it," Kumar said.
"This was the best fight of my life because I've achieved something for the country. I want to thank all the Indian people for praying for me."
Kumar comes from India's 'Village of Boxers' -- Kalwash in the northern state of Haryana.
His father, who worked overtime on the buses to pay for his career, and his mother went on a special Hindu pilgrimage to the Ganges river before the Olympics.
Kumar said he had already realised his goal after finishing outside the medals at Athens 2004.
"I've been working hard from then on. Now my journey is complete," he said.
The Indian now faces a tough semi-final against Cuba's Emilio Correa, one of eight Cuban boxers to reach the medal rounds. He said he had a simple strategy for Friday's semi-final.
"Win, win and win," he said.
Kumar's medal was India's second bronze of the day after Sushil Kumar, no relation, managed the feat in the freestyle wrestling.
Flyweight Jitender Kumar was earlier eliminated in the flyweight quarter-finals, following yet another namesake, bantamweight Akhil Kumar.
Jitender said he had taken the wrestler's bronze medal as a good omen.
"I'm just feeling sad I couldn't get a medal. I heard on the bus that an Indian wrestler got a bronze today," he said.
"I felt good about it. I thought maybe I would be able to do it as well."
Last week, bespectacled shooter Abhinav Bindra took gold in the men's 10m air rifle event in India's greatest success of the Games. He was given a hero's welcome on his return to New Delhi.
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