Mohammed Ali Qamar, India’s first Commonwealth Games gold medal winner in boxing, has taken over as chief coach for the country’s women pugilists. At 37, he became the youngest to get the top job.

Ali Qamar, who turns 38 in two months’ time, will replace veteran Shiv Singh. Ali Qamar has been an assistant coach in the national camp for more than a year.

In addition, the Arjuna awardee has helmed the Railways Sports Promotion Board’s women’s team for more than three years.

“It has come as a bit of surprise to me. I got to know only last night and I am thankful to the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) for considering me worthy enough for the position,” said Ali Qamar.

He won a gold medal in the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games in the light flyweight category.

Ali Qamar will be working alongside Italian coach Raffaele Bergamasco and will have seven assistant coaches in his team, including superstar MC Mary Kom’s trainer Chhote Lal Yadav.

There were murmurs of a possible change in the women’s camp after the BFI named a 39-year-old CA Kuttappa as the chief coach for the men’s camp.

India’s previous chief coaches for women – Anoop Kumar and Gurbax Singh Sandhu – were well over 50 when they took over.

Asked what might have tilted the scales in his favour, Ali Qamar said, “May be the practical knowledge I have gained as an assistant coach. I think the focus is also on getting younger coaches in the camp.”

“I might have done something right, could be the feedback from the girls in the camp. Don’t know, all I can say is that I will give it my all,” he said.

He also said that he didn’t expect to become the head coach just a year after joining the national camp as an assistant coach.

“No, not so early, not at 37. I had ambitions of going ahead based on performance but not so quickly. Now that I have been given the responsibility, I think I am ready for the challenge,” he said.

“It is a challenging job, no doubt about that. I have spent the last one year in understanding them. Now, I think I have got a hang of how things work,” he said.

“The toughest aspect is the selection process. Although the coach hardly has a role in it, campers might feel that we can influence selectors. It is not easy to handle the heartbreaks and the perceived biases,” he added.