Sarita Devi: World C’ships will be tough but India is prepared

The AIBA World Championships will be held at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium from November 15.

Old warhorses: Sarita Devi (left) and MC Mary Kom at the AIBA World Championships logo-unveiling ceremony in New Delhi on Wednesday.   -  AP

Having been part of the Run for Unity early morning and then sweating it out during training, MC Mary Kom was excused being apologetically late for a media briefing on Wednesday. That, however, made little difference to the 35-year old’s star status at the upcoming AIBA World Championships to be held here from November 15.

Mary, the five-time world champion, would not only be one of the 10 Indians in fray for a medal at the marquee event — being hosted by India for only the second time, the previous being in 2006 — but has also been named the brand ambassador for the event by the Boxing Federation of India. “She is not just a women’s boxing icon, not just a boxing icon, she is a sporting icon for all of India and we could not think of anyone better,” BFI president Ajay Singh explained on the sidelines of the logo and anthem unveiling of the tournament.

‘Very strong’

Mary, one of only two Indian medallists still active from the 2006 edition — the other being Sarita Devi — insisted that training at the same venue as the competition was an advantage for the host. “We are comfortable here, used to the facilities and venue and also don’t have to move. We are very strong at the moment and everyone is trying to fight and give their best to win medals for the country,” Mary said.

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Sarita, meanwhile, said it was an honour to compete for a second time on home soil and hoped to repeat her gold-winning performance from 2006. “With women’s boxing now an Olympic sport, all teams have become stronger and the competition is much tougher now; it has also changed since then. But we won the team championship with four gold medals (plus one silver and three bronze) then and hope to do it again this time,” Sarita said.

Mulling central contracts

Singh, meanwhile, also indicated that BFI was in the process of following the wrestling federation and looking at having central contracts for its boxers in the coming months. But he added that details were still being worked out and any announcement would only be made once the groundwork was over.

The World Championships, to be held at the India Gandhi indoor stadium, would see participation from around 325 pugilists from 73 countries from November 15-24.

The squad
  • Mary Kom (48 Kg), Pinky Jangra (51 Kg), Manisha Maun (54 Kg), Sonia (57 Kg), L Sarita Devi (60 Kg), Simranjit Kaur (64 Kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69 Kg), Saweety Boora (75 Kg), Bhagyabati Kachari (81 Kg) and Seema Poonia (+81 Kg).