Asian Games: Sarita's advice for India's women pugilists

As India’s women boxers get ready for yet another Asian Games outing, Sarita advises her junior team-mates to "keep the emotions in check".

Having seen Indian boxing through the thick and thin, Sarita believes that overseas training and competitions have helped the Indian boxers immensely.   -  M. Moorthy

The last time India's women boxers took the ring at the Asian Games, their performances were overshadowed by a controversy, which became the talking point of the event.

Laishram Sarita Devi, one of India’s top women pugilists, refused to accept her bronze medal during the medal ceremony for the women’s light 60-kilogram division boxing at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon.

Asian Games Live, Day 2

Sarita was furious after losing her lightweight semifinal bout with South Korea’s Park Ji-na, believing she should have been declared the winner.

While a section felt that the Manipur boxer was right in her approach, the world body of boxing, AIBA, suspended her for the ‘disrespectful’ act.

That was in 2014.

Keep emotions under check

And now, as India’s women boxers get ready for yet another Asian Games outing, Sarita understands the importance of "keeping the emotions in check", especially when the results are not in the boxer's favour.

“Those were the tough times for Indian boxing. We didn’t have a federation back then (it was suspended by the AIBA), so we had to go through a lot to reach that level. And after going through all that, I could not control my emotions when things didn’t go my way,” Sarita tells Sportstar.

READ| India wins mixed air rifle bronze, opens Asiad account

“I am sure such a thing won’t happen again. In 2014, it had happened out of the blue, but this time, there won’t be any such controversies.”

BFI backing boxers

Sarita believes with the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) backing its boxers, everyone is motivated to do well at the marquee events. “Those times were different. The boxers had to go through a lot and it was quite a tough ride for all of us. But this time, the federation is very supportive, and it has backed the boxers really well and everyone is motivated to do well,” Sarita, who bagged a bronze in the last Asian Games, says.

At the 18th Asian Games in Indonesia, India has fielded three women boxers—Pavitra (lightweight, 60kg), Sarjubala Devi (Fly, 51kg) and Sonia Lather (featherweight, 57kg).

While she is not ready to single out a particular boxer, Sarita is confident that India will get three medals in the women’s events. “I have followed all the three boxers from close quarters. They have trained really hard and that’s why I feel that all three can win medals,” she says. “I am not saying who will win gold, because that’s not fair to predict, but I am sure, we will get medals in all three categories,” Sarita adds.

Having seen Indian boxing through the thick and thin, Sarita believes that overseas training and competitions have helped the Indian boxers immensely.

“The boxers are getting enough exposure trips and that’s the reason we know how to battle the odds in different conditions. Earlier, there would be a maximum of two to three events a year. Now, overall training has been good.” Sarita says.

She is also happy with the way the federation has been transparent in the selection process. “Earlier, only a select few would get the chance (to represent the country). But now, they have started rankings for boxers, and that has also encouraged fair play and transparency,” Sarita points out.

Sitting back in India, Sarita will be rooting for all the three women boxers. “They have prepared well, they deserve to win,” she says, hoping to see her junior team-mates take the podium.