NEW DELHI: Success propels but setbacks teach life lessons like none can, feels seasoned Indian boxer Shiva Thapa, who cannot wait to turn his “growth” story of a roller-coaster year into a maiden Asian Games medal this month.
The first and only Indian boxer with three consecutive Asian Championships medals – a gold (2013), silver (2017) and a bronze (2015), Shiva would be competing in his second Asian Games, scheduled from August 18 in Jakarta and Palembang.
The last time around, he lost in the quarterfinals and speaking to PTI, the Assam boxer offered a rather philosophical take on success and setbacks, careful to specify that by setbacks, he did not mean failures.
“I think setbacks are a better teacher. They make you stronger and when you bounce back, it’s the most amazing feeling,” says the 25-year-old, one of only four Indian boxers to have a world championship medal in his cabinet.
“Success definitely propels you and makes you confident, but setbacks, they are like a tightly pulled bowstring; the farther it is pulled, the faster you go ahead. Success also teaches you things but a lot of times, you can get carried away too. But setbacks pump you up like nothing else,” he adds.
“The Asian Games mean a lot to me. By a lot, I mean, I can’t even tell you how much. It is a massive challenge first and foremost but a challenge that I am ready for. This is the biggest competition I would be in since shifting to 60kg in 2016, and the one that I have been waiting for,” he says.
The perspective perhaps comes from enduring a rocky ride in the last one year. It all started with his historic silver at the Asian Championships in May 2017, the first international medal since the shift from 56kg to 60kg in the winter of 2016.
As a result, he went in as a top contender at the world championships in Hamburg but could not even set foot inside the ring due to a bout of food poisoning a night before his opening fight.
After that, there was the silver at the national championships, a bronze at the India Open, during which his body was not quite at 100 percent. Eventually, Shiva could not make the cut for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games after being pipped on points by Manish Kaushik, the man who upstaged him in the National finals.
What followed was a revival of sorts. A maiden victory in the semi-professional World Series of Boxing was followed by an impressive bronze medal-winning show at the Ulaanbaatar Cup in Mongolia before he finally got the better of Manish in the trials for the Asian Games.
However, he prefers to take a macro view of his journey rather than dwelling on the specifics.
“To me success is the feeling that you get after a hard day’s work, knowing that you have done your best. When I can look at myself and say without hesitation that ‘I couldn’t have done better than what I did’, that’s success to me,” he explains.
“There have been times when I could have done better than what I did, so that counts for a setback. And those are the times when I sit back and understand how I can get better,” he says.
For an athlete, medals or trophies are mostly the measures of success or failure but Shiva feels it is way more than that.
“Even after you have won a gold medal somewhere, would anyone have the time or the desire to know what went into making it? The many setbacks before that success? Only I would know that. But either way, you would be judged without anyone having the slightest idea about the journey,” he says.
“People can judge from a distance, but success or setbacks are internal, how I look at things.”
So how would he describe his journey from the 2014 Asiad to the one coming up? “… it is obviously about growth. I have grown as a boxer, as an individual. And I hope that shows in results too,” Shiva signs off.