Once in a long while, along comes an athlete who not only rewrites history, but helps in inspiring a generation, who follow in his or her footsteps. While most other countries have embraced contact sports, and have produced some of the most legendary sporting heroes, India, with a rich history in martial arts hasn’t been able to provide the impetus for the athletes to shine on the big stage.
However, with the grit and determination to show the world that talent does rise to the top, there have been Indian athletes who have defied the odds, and in the process created history. Today, we look at the story of one such athlete, who not only made the entire country stand up and take notice, but in the process became a source of inspiration to others. Continuing our series of forgotten heroes of Indian contact sports, today, we look back at the phenomenal story of Mohammed Ali Qamar.
From humble beginnings to the rise to the top
Before Vijender Singh found success due to his exploits in the 2008 Olympics, there was one Indian who turned quite a few heads at the Commonwealth Games in 2002. Mohammad Ali Qamar’s journey from rags to gold at the Games came and went as quickly as his rise to fame and then back into relative obscurity.
The boxer from Kidderpore, Kolkata found a mentor in his father, who enrolled him into boxing at a young age. Cheena Bhai, who trained him in his early years groomed Qamar, leading to his first big accolade in 1991, when he became the inter – district champion in West Bengal. At the national sub – junior level, he remained undefeated for four straight years, and the first big break in his budding career came in 1999 at the Amateur World Boxing Championships, where he fought valiantly to reach the quarterfinals before he was defeated by Ron Siler in Houston.
During the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002, Qamar was up against the odds as he took on favourite and hometown hero, Darren Langley in the finals, in the Light Flyweight division. Although it initially looked like Darren would walk away with the title, Qamar’s resolve and resilience saw the Indian fight back to outscore his opponent in the latter stages of the match. Qamar finally defeated the Brit to clinch the gold, as this relatively unknown boxer from India made headlines around the world.
Honors and awards
Qamar also performed exceptionally well to reach the quarterfinals of the 2002 Busan Asian Games, but his career was cut short due to injuries. Qamar, who dedicated his life to boxing, became an inspiration to women from Kidderpore, but sadly, very few remember the exploits of one of the most promising talents emerging from the country. Qamar has also been an advocate to promote boxing in the country, apart from being the national selector. Qamar was also bestowed the Arjuna Award, by the Indian government in 2002 for his exploits at the Commonwealth Games.
So as the nation revels in the feats of Vijender Singh and Mary Kom, we take a quiet moment to salute this champion boxer from Kidderpore. Mohd Ali Qamar, take a bow !