'2022 an opportunity to check how ready I'm to win gold in Paris Olympics': Lovlina Borgohain
The 24-year-old returned with bronze from Tokyo 2020, a remarkable achievement indeed, but it certainly is not good for Lovlina, who aspires to better it to gold in Paris 2024.
Lovlina Borgohain etched her name in the history books when she became the first from Assam, and the second female in India after Mary Kom, to win an Olympic medal in boxing. The 24-year-old returned with bronze from Tokyo 2020, a remarkable achievement indeed, but it certainly is not good for Lovlina, who aspires to better it to gold in Paris 2024.
Following her success in Tokyo, which was also her maiden appearance at the Games, it took no time for the country to celebrate her landmark achievement. Apart from the much-deserved cash rewards, a street was named after her in Guwahati. The accolades didn't end there, she was also offered the post of deputy superintendent with Assam Police and was honoured with the prestigious Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna Award.
Despite the stellar success, Lovlina isn't sure if she can rate 2021 as one of her best years but is thankful about how things fell in place after the struggle.
“The year couldn't have been any better but at the same time it couldn't have been any worse. Despite the difficulties, things went well for me towards the end, so it will definitely be a memorable one for me.”
“In 2021 my mother got a kidney transplant, which was tough for me, and injuries kept bothering me before the Olympics,” Lovlina told Hindustan Times in an exclusive interview.
The pugilist is now focused about completing her ultimate goal, which is to secure a gold medal at the Olympics. With the next edition scheduled to take place in just over two years in the French capital, Lovlina is confident about upstaging what she did in Tokyo.
“I'm more confident to do much better in the 2024 Olympics as I drew many lessons from my experience in Tokyo. When we do something for the first time (referring to her maiden Olympic appearance), we often don't do it well, but the second time we are more prepared,” said Lovlina.
Lovlina further explained that she had noticed a few frailties in her game while facing world-class opponents in Tokyo, which she is now trying to to turn into her strong areas. She points out training, focus, and dedication, as things that matter the most to help her fulfil her ambitious dream.
The pugilist also looks forward to participating in the events (World Championships, Asian Games, Commonwealth Games, and the Asian Championships) this year, which she believes will offer her an opportunity to keep a mark on her preparations for Paris.
“This is a very important year and I want to take part in all the events and win gold there. I'll take every tournament as part of my training because after the Olympics I've not played a single competition. These tournaments will give me an opportunity to check myself how ready I'm and how much more I should be to win a gold medal in Paris,” said Lovlina.
Lessons from mentor
If anyone deserves any credit behind the meteoric rise in Lovlina's boxing graph, it has got to be her coach Sandhya Gurung. Working behind the scenes, Gurung crafted an aggressive Lovlina into a more technical boxer.
Sharing her thoughts on the support she has received from her guru, Lovlina recounts her experience from her first senior nationals in 2016, where she had lost her first bout. She said it was after teaming up with Sandhya that she started making progress in the ring.
“Sandhya ma'am played a big role because in 2016 when I took part in my first senior nationals, I lost in my first bout. Even prior to that whenever I took part in international competitions, be it youth or sub-junior, I could not perform very well. I used to train a lot but I was not able to perform well.”
“I was not technically strong in the ring. I used to think I needed to attack, never thought that I can play with my brains too but when I met Sandhya ma'am, she taught me boxing is not all about strength. We need to think, use our tactics, how to anticipate the opponent's next move and plan accordingly,” said Lovlina.
She further mentioned that even if Sandhya is not present for the international events, as we saw in Tokyo, the Sikkimese coach is constantly in touch over the phone with words of motivation or a detailed analysis of her next opponent.
Breaking the stereotype
Lovlina is part of the ‘Impossible is Nothing’ campaign by Adidas, which aims at celebrating inspirational female sportspersons who have achieved extraordinary marks with their grit. The Tokyo Olympic bronze medallist's journey from a small village in Assam (Baromukhia) to a podium finish in Tokyo too has been an inspirational.
Talking about her struggles she faced in the initial years, the 24-year-old said it was more difficult because of the lack of sports facilities in her village, which got its first pitched road only after her historic feat in Tokyo. She also highlighted gender to be another factor, that was often pointed out by others questioning her abilities.
“I come from a place where there was nothing related to sport, leave boxing. So I faced a lot of difficulties, which escalated because I'm a female. Because there were many who used to say 'don't send a girl alone.'"
“But my parents were very supportive and had complete faith in my abilities , which is why I started believing in myself more,” said Lovlina, who also recalled instances when she was ridiculed for excessive training and taunts which followed because of her ambitions.
Now Lovlina is not just an idol for her villagers but most of the young kids in India. Sharing her thoughts on being a role model at such a young age, the boxer shared a very important piece of advice for the upcoming generation, who aspire to take sports as a career.
“I would like to tell young kids who want to take up sports that even if you're from a small village with very little facilities just believe impossible is nothing. I come from a small village where people thought it was never possible for me to play in the Olympics. Many even said because I'm a female. So all I want to say is no matter even how big the problems are, you should keep yourself motivated to just deliver,” concluded Lovlina.