Kolkata: Soon after ensuring at least a bronze medal by making the semi-finals five days back, India’s Lovlina Borgohain said she wanted to raise the bar and go for the gold. The 23-year-old boxer, however, looked out of sorts against the power and technical nous of Turkey’s Busenaz Surmeneli in the Welterweight clash on Wednesday and failed to change the colour of the medal, but her achievement did not go unnoticed in a medal-starved country like India.
The lanky girl from a remote village of Baromukhia, nestled in the north eastern state of Assam, became only the third Indian boxer to ensure a podium finish at the Olympics after Vijender Singh (2008) and MC Mary Kom (2012). She was the lone boxer who didn’t return empty-handed out of a nine-member contingent who qualified for the Tokyo Games, including a number of medal prospects.
From the President of the country to the cricketers’ fraternity, there was a huge round of applause for the iron-willed girl, who still lends her father a hand in the paddy field to star to stay ‘grounded.’
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‘‘Congratulations to Lovlina Borgohain! With your hard work and dogged determination, you have done the nation proud. Your Bronze medal in boxing at the Olympics Games will inspire the youth, especially young women, to battle with challenges and turn their dreams into reality,’’ tweeted Ramnath Kovind, the Indian President.
Till last week, the approach road to Lovlina’s village in Assam’s Golaghat district was a mud-and-stone track, which would become a nightmare during the endless monsoon in that part of the world. What years of assurance from local political leaders couldn’t achieve has been done thanks to the magic of the Olympic silverware - as reports say that work on a concrete road has begun on war footing with hours after Lovlina’s heroics.
‘‘I wanted to go for gold but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. I would like to thank the people of India and Assam for praying for my success,’’ Lovlina said in a video posted by the Boxing Federation of India. ‘‘I want to dedicate this medal to the people of India and will strive to get more such honour for the country in future,’’ she said.
The road from Baromukhia to Tokyo had not been a smooth one - replete with stories of financial struggles and battle against social stigma of a girl child taking up a demanding sport like boxing.
In July last year, when most of her compatriots reached the national camp in Patiala soon after the first surge of the COVID-19 pandemic ebbed a bit, Lovlina was busy attending to her mother Mamon, who underwent a kidney transplant in a Kolkata hospital. The lack of medical infra-strcuture in the North East - which is where two of India’s medallists in Tokyo so far come from (Mirabai Chanu being the other) means patients have to be rushed to Kolkata for any major surgery.
Lovlina visited her for a few days at that time and ended up testing positive for Covid a day before she was to leave with the Olympic-qualified group for a 52-day training trip to Europe. The exposure trip would have been crucial for her, given that the pandemic had caused havoc to the preparation and too, boxers were not allowed to spar for a while even after the camps reopened.
It was tough for the youngster to prepare all by herself. In the Asian Championship in Dubai in June, the last competitive tournament before Olympics where the national federation organised the contingent’s trip despite a travel embargo, she still ended up with a bronze medal.
Will the Olympic bronze medallist now continue to help her father Tiken Borgohain on the paddy field? “Working in a paddy field is not a new thing for her. She has been doing this for a long time. We have told her to not do it but she says it helps her to stay connected with the roots,” Borgohain Sr said in an interview.
Beat that if you can...