Sarita Devi to take call on retirement after Tokyo Olympics

The former world boxing champion is keen to gain a medal at the Games. She is gearing up for the Women’s World Championships determined to prove her detractors wrong.

Gearing up: Sarita Devi trains at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi on Friday. Photo: PTI   -  PTI

Sarita Devi, the former world champion, said on Friday she will take a call on her retirement after the Olympic Games in 2020.

The 37-year-old hopes to make a last-ditch attempt to win an elusive medal at the Games.

Sarita has three World Championships medals — a gold in 2006 and a bronze each in 2005 and 2008. She also has five Asian Championships gold medals, and a bronze and a silver in the Asian Games (Incheon, 2014) and the Commonwealth Games (Glasgow, 2014), respectively. But an Olympic medal has remained elusive for the lightweight (60kg category) boxer from Manipur, and she is keen to win that in Tokyo before drawing curtains on her career.

“I am still continuing boxing for only one reason — Olympic medal. I have won medals in all competitions that I had participated. Only an Olympic medal is missing in my cupboard and I am desperate to get that in Tokyo,” Sarita told PTI.

Asked about her retirement plans, she said: “I can’t tell anything now. I will take a decision on my career after the Tokyo Olympics.”

‘Big challenge’

Sarita and Mary Kom will spearhead a strong 10-member Indian contingent at the Women’s World Boxing Championships in Ulan Ude, Russia, from October 3 to October 13. It has been a long time since Sarita won a medal at the World Championships, and she is seeking to break the 11-year-old hiatus.

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“Whenever I featured in the World Championships in the last 10 years, I really played well, but lost my bouts from winning positions. So it’s a big challenge for me this time. I have a worked a lot, brought about a lot of changes in my technique. So I am fully confident that I will get a medal this time,” she said. “I am 37 now and mother of a kid. Even some people have said that I have grown old and cannot do it again. But I am proud that I forced my way into the team after beating everyone. It’s a big challenge for me.”

Sarita is keen to prove her detractors wrong. “A medal in this World Championships will shut the mouth of all who had criticised me and said that ‘Sarita is done and dusted’ This will be a big answer to them. Colour of the medal does not matter to me, any medal is acceptable,” she said.

‘Returning to the peak’

Sarita was full of praise for Raffaele Bergamasco, the performance director for the Indian women’s boxing team, and new office-bearers of the Boxing Federation of India for their continued support. “In the last two years, after we started working with our Italian coach, there have been a lot of changes in Indian boxing. Our biggest strength is the power of our punches but we are little slow in our movements. The coaches have worked in this area and we have also realised our mistakes. The federation has given us full support. The Sports Ministry [and] SAI also has been supporting us. [Indian] boxing is slowly returning to the peak again,” she said.

She said it was time for women pugilists to show their might after the achievements of their male counterparts in Russia. “The men’s team is No. 6 in the world, so now it’s our turn to show women boxers are no laggards,” Sarita said.

Asked about her plans after retirement, Sarita said: “I am running my academy in Manipur for the last five years. From the last two years, it came under SAI and the Olympic Gold Quest has also been supporting us. Five boxers from my academy won medals in the Junior Nationals this year. Seven boxers are in the Khelo India programme. I can never be away from boxing. After retirement, I will keep on working on producing good boxers for the country.”