As the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers came to a close, Simranjit Kaur was the last woman standing from India. After what was the final bout featuring an Indian at the event, Simranjit Kaur came away with a silver medal for her efforts.
However, for Simranjit Kaur, the bigger prize that she’d set out to earn in this competition — an Olympic berth — was already in the bag, and making it to the semi-final was merely the icing on that cake.
If anything, the last-leg loss was something she regarded as yet another opportunity to work away on her weaker areas.“We don’t learn so much after winning as compared to losing,” she told the Olympic Channel in an exclusive interview following the bout.
For a woman who once aspired to be a teacher, she is now schooling international boxers instead, all the while validating her mother’s decision to push her into the sport that is now her identity.
Hailing from Punjab’s Chakar village, Ludhiana which has also produced Junior World Champion Mandeep Kaur, Simranjit Kaur was born on July 10, 1995.
Typical of many sportspersons, Simranjit too grew up with siblings — an elder sister and two younger brothers — who partook in the sport that would define a destiny that Simranjit didn’t foresee back then.
“I wanted to study,” she told The Economic Times, making it clear that she wasn't exactly interested in boxing.
It was her mother, Rajpal Kaur, a self-admitted lover of the sport, who nudged her daughter along, as she had done for her other children as well.
"I still remember the time when my sister Amandeep Kaur took me to the ring. I came back crying and never wanted to go back," she told The Tribune.
But she decided to give it a go after she saw her siblings putting in the effort. Behind this was a good reason; the family used to struggle to make ends meet and Rajpal Kaur believed expertise in a sport would ensure a better life for her children.
“In sports, if you are good, no one can stop you. For good education, you need to have a lot of money,” said the doting mother, whose persistence eventually won out and Simranjit Kaur took up boxing.
It wasn’t long before Simranjit Kaur grew to love boxing, and by 2010, she began training at the Sher e Punjab sports academy to strengthen her individual game.
Not having too many girls from her weight category around, Simranjit would end up sparring with the boys — something she claims helped expedite her strength build-up.
By 2011, bronze medal-winning performance at the 6th Junior Women National Boxing Championship in Patiala saw Simranjit Kaur through to the national camp in Visakhapatnam.
“When I got an entry in the camp, it was clear to me that now I want to play for the country. I didn’t know much about international tournaments then but I knew one thing; I needed my jersey to say ‘India’,” she told SheThePeople.
More medals followed in 2012, including a bronze at the Inter-Zonal Women National Boxing Championship in Visakhapatnam, and a silver medal at the Junior Women National Boxing Championship in Patiala.
In 2015, she added another bronze medal to her kitty at the Senior (Elite) Women National Boxing Championship at Assam.
In 2018, Simranjit Kaur finally got her chance at an international boxing tournament that she had been craving and grabbed the opportunity with both hands.
Competing in the 64kg category at the Ahmet Comert Tournament in Istanbul, Turkey, Simranjit Kaur defeated Turkey’s Sema Caliskan and won gold.
Boxers Simranjit Kaur, Bhagyabati Kachari and Monika had bagged gold medals at Ahmet Comert Tournament, making it a special day for India.
Then, later in the year, she bagged the light welterweight bronze medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships in front of her countryfolk in Delhi.
The World Championship bronze-medallist followed up her breakout year with more international acclaim in 2019, clinching the silver medal in the light welterweight category at the 2019 Asian Championships in Bangkok.
She also went back to the President’s Cup in Indonesia. The year prior, competing in the 64kg category, she had managed to secure bronze. However, dropping down to the 60kg category in 2019, she outfought local favourite Huswatun Hasanah to win outright by a 5-0 margin.
Finally, Simranjit closed out the year by beating veteran pugilist L Sarita Devi in the Boxing Federation of India national trials, which set up her foray into the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers.
Beating second-seeded Namuun Monkhor in her Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers quarter-final bout, Simranjit Kaur had bagged a career-first Olympic berth.
"I'm too excited now!" Indian sports minister Kiren Rijiju mentioned on his Twitter page when Simranjit had become one of the nine Indian boxers to qualify for the 2020 Olympics.
While ecstatic about the achievement, she never forgot to reflect on her struggles up to that point.
“Be in the game or in the family, problems were always there, but I consider myself lucky that I have problems because they make me stronger,” she said.
Just like with her fellow Indian boxers led by Mary Kom, there are no upcoming fixtbouts coming up amidst the rise in coronavirus cases, save for the Games themselves, for which Simranjit Kaur will be training away fervently with the hope of securing a medal come July.