Exclusive: Lovlina Borgohain ready to punch above her weight on Olympics debut

The 22-year-old boxer, a revelation on the international stage in the last two years, is raising India’s hopes in the 69 kg category.

Among a new generation of female Indian boxers always eager to look the opposition in the eye, Lovlina Borgohain has enjoyed an impressive couple of years.

Starting with her first major medal - a bronze at the 2017 Asian Championships - the Indian boxer scaled up rapidly, making it to the 2018 Commonwealth Games squad and ended the year with bronze at the World Championships at home in New Delhi in her maiden attempt.

The Assamese lass then went on to secure another bronze at the 2019 World Championships in Ulan-Ude, Russia and won the national trials in the 69 kg class to convince the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) to send her for the Asian qualifiers for the Summer Games.

Lovlina Borgohain made full use of that opportunity to qualify for her maiden Olympics in Tokyo and despite all the early success, she remains very modest in her journey so far.

“I’d say it has been a decent run. I have not performed poorly but it certainly has not been excellent,” Lovlina Borgohain told the Olympic Channel in an exclusive chat.

“I know the two World Championships bronze are a good effort, but my aim is to win a gold at the international level. I realize I need to work even harder for that.”

The young Indian boxer has helped broaden the scope of the women’s game in India in recent years beyond just London 2012 bronze medallist MC Mary Kom and she credits the renewed vigour with which the BFI has approached the sport.

“The federation has been a big factor in that. The entire team, right from the foreign coaches to the doctors and masseuse and other support staff, are working with the singular aim of success in mind,” she explained.

That support from the entire team helped Lovlina Borgohain enter her first major tournament at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, an event she regards as the turning point of her nascent career.

Learning from losses

The 22-year-old’s inclusion in the Indian boxers’ contingent for the 2018 Commonwealth Games itself came as a surprise as her gold-medal performance at the inaugural India Open impressed the BFI.

The welterweight bowed out in the quarter-finals to British boxer Sandy Ryan, who went on to eventually win gold and Lovlina Borgohain revealed that the loss taught her a lot about mental strength.

“I had prepared very well, be it technique or fitness, going into that event. And when I lost, it was mentally draining for me,” admitted the Indian boxer.

“Only after that did I realize that physical prowess was not all that mattered. Playing a big tournament brings with it a lot of stress and I became aware of the psychological aspects of sport.

I took to meditation to improve my psyche and it also helped me strategize in between bouts. I started performing better after that.”

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Tokyo calling

At the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers in Amman, Jordan earlier this year, Lovlina Borgohain was among nine Indian boxers to book their spots for the Tokyo Olympics, making it India’s best boxing representation at any edition of the Games.

The quick handed boxer slugged it out against Uzbekistan’s Maftunakhon Melieva in the quarters at the event, winning it by a unanimous decision to confirm her spot at the Tokyo Olympics.

She fell in the semi-finals to Gu Hong of China to end up with a bronze at the event but had achieved the goal that she had in mind when flying to Jordan.

“The priority for us was to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Once I did that, I probably let myself relax a bit, which is why I lost in the semis,” chuckled Lovlina Borgohain. “It was also the first time I played her (Hong) so I did not exactly know what strategy to follow.”

Now that the Tokyo Olympics is postponed for a year, the Indian boxer is using the extra time to be in the best possible shape and frame of mind when the marquee event does approach, reviewing opponents’ videos and focusing on keeping fit.

And it also helps that she is much more aware of herself and her game.

“There has to be a strict routine for me to follow to allow me to be at my best. That’s what I have been during the lockdown as well,” the Indian boxer stated.

“As for the Tokyo Olympics, I will try to go as light-headed as possible. The aim is to give my 100 per cent in the ring and leave the rest to God,” she concluded.

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