Olympic specials: Sarita Devi talks Lovlina, Mirabai and north-east

Former world champion Sarita feels Lovlina’s towering presence and long-range jabs can intimidate any opponent.

Lovlina Borgohain won her quarterfinal bout to assure India of only its third medal at the Olympics in boxing and their second medal at Tokyo 2020.   -  PTI

Former boxing world champion and Asian Games medallist, L. Sarita Devi, has backed Lovlina Borgohain to aim for gold at the Tokyo Olympics 2020.

Sarita, who had trained under the late Dingko Singh, called the Assam youngster powerful for her towering presence — 5 ft 10 inches — in the ring.

In a chat with Sportstar from Imphal, Sarita dissected Lovlina's welterweight quarterfinal bout against Chen Nien-chin of Chinese Taipei that assured India a second medal at the Games after Mirabai Chanu's silver in weightlifting.

  Lovlina Borgohain: Olympic success a result of fearless approach

Excerpts.

Lovlina is the third Indian boxer, after Mary Kom and Vijender Singh, to assure India an Olympic medal in boxing. What's her strength?

Lovlina is a young player. Her hand and feet moved quickly in the quarterfinal. She has been consistent in the run-up to the Games. She is tall with long and strong hands.

You have been observing her for a few years...

Yes, and I think she has improved a lot. Chen was also coming on the back of impressive performances, so Lovlina did quite well. I was a little unsure of her approach since she is 23 and has just arrived on the scene. But when the bout started, I knew she would win.

Lovlina Borgohain's coaches pleased as a punch

What was that magical spark?

People are a little wary of Indian boxers, and Chen was not playing as Chinese Taipei usually does. The tall Lovlina maintained distance and landed the jabs effortlessly. She never let her wrists loose when she came close. She did not let Chen get hold of her. It is a matter of pride that she has assured a boxing medal for the country. I hope she wins gold.

Sarita Devi is a former boxing world champion and Asian Games medallist.   -  The Hindu

 

How much can height intimidate an opponent?

If you are short, you cannot get the long-range punch. Lovlina could get in easily, pack the right punch and quickly move away. Chen was getting confused. Lovlina planned well and did not let her in.

Do you feel Mary Kom’s bout met with an unfair decision?

I was busy, and I could not watch Mary’s bout. I saw the short clips on television. But I heard from my husband, Thoiba Singh, that there was an issue.

What is the future of Indian boxing? How can we do better at the Olympics?

We have got a medal, and maybe we can get the gold if Lovlina beats the reigning world champion Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey. But we have to work more seriously towards Paris 2024. The preparation has to start now with proper training and focus. The government recognises Olympians, and I expect more support, more sponsorships so that the kids can have a solid future. If there was no COVID, the preparation for Tokyo would have been better.

Lovlina Borgohain's medal-winning effort in Tokyo, a ringside view  

Your thoughts on Mirabai Chanu...

She has set an example for all the young girls in Manipur and the whole of the north-east. These medals will inspire a lot of women in India. Hopefully, they will receive support from their families. Women athletes from India have been doing well at the Olympics; Mirabai's silver is only going to make their beliefs stronger. The best part is that India's first two medals in Tokyo came from the north-east. I am hoping to see more athletes from our region at the top level.

Last year, you had said you would take a call on your retirement in 2021. What are your plans?

There are no competitions now, but I will not retire. I will play. I have been training at my academy with young boxers, and I am back in the groove. My son is eight years old now. I don't know how he grew up so fast.

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