Indian camp brims with optimism ahead of Asian Boxing Championship

A relatively young Indian women's boxing team, led by veteran Sarita Devi, sounds upbeat on the eve of the Asian Boxing Championship in Thailand.

Sarita Devi is the most experienced pugilist in the Indian squad that will participate in the Asian Boxing Championship in Thailand. (File Photo)   -  M. Moorthy

It is a happy camp. Peppy music and bursts of laughter add to the pleasant ambience as the boxers go through a rigorous session at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex. Veteran Sarita Devi and Neetu, the torch-bearer of the young talent, strike a rapport which is reflective of the team spirit on the eve of the Asian Boxing Championship to be held in Thailand.

For Sarita, 37, it is an extension of her unflinching ambition to serve Indian boxing. For Neetu, 18, it is an expression of her determination to relive some of Sarita's glory. It is Neetu's first appearance at the senior level but she hardly gives the impression of being a rookie.

The newly-appointed women's Head Coach, Mohd Ali Qamar, a gold medallist at the Commonwealth Games, is just a year older to Sarita. “We have concentrated on strength at this camp. We expect good results. The youngsters are motivated when they see the seniors. It is a plus point that Mary Kom and Sarita are training with them,” he says.

Neetu is excited, “Our coaches have prepared us very well in the camp, be it technical or tactical aspect. ” She watches Sarita from the corner of the eye, “Mary didi and Sarita didi motivate us a lot. They tell us our weakness, how to improve and use our qualities in the right manner. Sarita didi plays with a very cool mind. It is only because of her that women’s boxing has come up so well in the country. She is also southpaw like me, so seeing her bouts is benefiting me a lot,” she says.

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Sarita has kind words for them all. “The youngsters are very talented and hard-working too. All of them had done very well at the youth level, and are now playing in their first senior tournament. I feel they will do well, they are training with a lot of confidence and in my experience, these youngsters have an amazing focus and have the enthusiasm. Even when they are training with the seniors here, they are not fearful. They box freely. Most important thing in boxing is that the heart should be strong. And these kids have strong hearts and the courage to fight,” she states.

The veteran concludes on an encouraging note: “In our time, there were no facilities. We did our best with what we got. We struggled a lot, but gave performances too. The new boxers have got full support of BFI, Sports Ministry and SAI. So they should give even better performances.”

The squad: 48kg: Neetu (Haryana), 51kg: Nikhat Zareen, 54kg: Manisha (Haryana), 57kg: Sonia Chahal, 60kg: Sarita Devi, 64kg: Simranjit Kaur, 69kg: Lovlina Borgohain (Assam), 75kg: Nupur (Haryana), 81kg: Pooja Rani (Haryana), 81+kg: Seema Poonia.