Sarita Devi aims for an Olympic medal

After spending more than a year away from boxing due to ban imposed by International Boxing Federation, L. Sarita Devi is slowly working her way back to the peak form before the upcoming Rio Olympics.

L. Sarita Devi is gearing up for Rio Olympics.   -  Sandeep Saxena

After spending more than a year away from boxing due to ban imposed by International Boxing Federation, L. Sarita Devi is slowly working her way back to the peak form before the upcoming Rio Olympics.

The 31-year-old started serious training after her ban ended on October last year. Recalling those dark days, Sarita said that she had thought of quitting the sports. But the encouragement and the support she received from people made her change the decision. “I kept myself physically fit by doing light training. Naturally I was disappointed with the ban and wanted to quit the boxing. But the whole country supported me.

Everyone from former sportspersons to layman had words of comfort and after seeing their love and encouragement, I decided to come back and continue boxing till Olympics. I have won medals in all major international events barring the Olympics. I want to end my career with an Olympic medal. I still think that I have a genuine chance to win medal at the Olympics. It will be tough but not beyond my reach,’’ said Sarita Devi who is in Thiruvananthapuram for a short camp with her coach Chandralal.

Sarita also underwent a surgery to mend her injured wrist in Mumbai while she was serving her ban. “I injured my wrist just before the final of the Commonwealth Games. The doctors advised me to concede the finals and to skip the Asian Games. But I was keen to win the gold medal and took part in the final but couldn’t give my best against an opponent who was not very strong and it was disappointing. In the Asian Games I took pain killing drugs before each bout. I was determined to do well for India. I was disappointed with what happened in Incheon but now I have got over it,” she said.

Sarita Devi, who is sponsored by Olympic Quest, underwent a 10 day training camp in Liverpool and recently took part in a training-cum-competition trip to China. The camp in China attracted leading boxers from Asia and Sarita reached the final in the lightweight category where she lost to her Chinese opponent in the final. “It was a good experience for me. I restrained from going all out against the Chinese opponent for obvious reasons. They (Chinese) were using the meet to analyse their opponents’ strength and I didn’t want to expose my techniques too much before them,” said Sarita who will be travelling to China again for the Olympic qualifying event in March.

Sarita is now gearing herself up for the SAF Games which will begin in Guhawati at the end of this month. “This will be the first time I will be taking part in SAF Games. I know there will not be much competition for me but I need practice before the Olympic qualifiers in China which is important,” she said.

After her retirement, Sarita wants to concentrate on her boxing academy and groom promising boxers from her Manipur. Her boxing academy – Sarita Devi Boxing centre — has been functioning in her village in Imphal for the last three years. “When I began my career there wasn’t any opportunity for me and there was no one to guide me. In Manipur there are now a lot of youngsters who have taken up boxing after seeing me and Mary Kom. There are at present 60 trainees in my academy. I have a coach to help me.

Whenever I am in my village I give boxing training to the kids. Some of the trainees are promising. I am thankful to my sponsor International Hotel Management (IHM) which gives me a monthly grant to sustain the cost of running the academy. My dream is to produce an Olympic medallist from my academy,” concluded Sarita.