New Delhi: Vijender Singh became the first Indian boxer to qualify for the Olympic Games for a third successive time after reaching the semifinals of the Asian Olympic Qualifiers in Astana, Kazakhstan on Sunday.
The first Indian to win an Olympic and World Championships medal - bronze in both events - Vijender outpunched Chuluuntumur Tumurkhuyag of Mongolia 27-17 to not just assure himself of an Olympic berth but also a medal at the ongoing tournament.
"I am back," were Vijender's first words after winning the crucial bout, a loss in which would have ended his hopes of making the London Games.
The 26-year-old had failed in his first attempt to book a ticket for London in last year's World Championships.
"I have answered all my critics, who said that I was finished (after losing in the first round of World Championships)," said the former world number one, who was gasping for breath after a draining encounter.
Before the 2008 Beijing Games, Vijender had won gold at the Asian Qualifiers at that time, which incidentally were also held in Kazakhstan.
"I will now give it my all in the Olympics and prove that I am the best. It's such a relief to have got qualified. The fact that I am the first Indian boxer to have qualified for a third successive Olympics makes it all the more special," he said.