Newly-appointed men’s boxing coach Santiago Nieva feels Indian pugilists are at par with the world’s best in mental toughness and should not be judged too harshly at this stage as “some things must take time for better results”.
The born-in-Argentina-but-raised-in Sweden coach joined the ongoing national camp in Patiala two weeks ago and has been familiarising himself with his new colleagues, wards and the base. He has replaced Cuba’s Blas Iglesias Fernandes, who left in 2014.
Ask him about his first impressions and the changes he plans to bring in, Nieva says so far, he hasn’t found anything that needs urgent overhauling.
“I am understanding the training culture in India, which I feel is not very different from elsewhere. It is traditional and Indian boxers at the senior level seem to have a very good base,” the 41-year-old, who is a member of the International Boxing Association’s (AIBA) elite coaches’ commission, told PTI in an interview.
“Their foundation is solid, most of them have excellent technique. All this is very important for development. In the camp, I haven’t seen anything that has surprised me,” Nieva adds about the assignment he considers a challenge as well as a golden opportunity.
It has been a roller-coaster ride for the Indian boxers in the last four years due to administrative wrangling and the medal count abroad has seen a decline.
But with a new federation in place, they are finally getting regular international exposure even though the results have been mixed so far.
Nieva opines that it is easy to judge when an athlete is not doing well because empathy would require a deeper understanding of the dynamics of his sport.
“The challenge lies in improving and moving forward. Indian boys are tough and that is why they have got you medals at the World Championships, Asian Championships, made the Olympics in record numbers,” he points out.
“They have won medals everywhere. So, I don’t think we should be too judgemental. I don’t think mental toughness is even an issue with the Indian boys given their record. We should take it a bit easy on passing judgements,” he adds.