Lovlina hopes for a rare double in Paris - Hindustan Times

Lovlina hopes for a rare double in Paris

Apr 23, 2024 11:19 PM IST

Settled in her new 75kg class, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist aims to become the first Indian pugilist to win two Olympic medals.

Indian boxers have won a medal in three of the last four Olympics but none have been able to do it twice. Tell that to Lovlina Borgohain and the 75kg boxer comes up with a firm, "It will change very soon." Having won a bronze medal at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics, Lovlina knows a thing or two about winning on the big stage, and come Paris, the 26-year-old will hope to change the colour of her medal.

India boxer Lovlina Borgohain (PTI)
India boxer Lovlina Borgohain (PTI)

Vijender Singh became the first Indian to win an Olympic medal at the Beijing Games in 2008 and four years later, MC Mary Kom added a bronze in London. The Indian boxers returned empty-handed from Rio but Lovlina punched her way to a memorable bronze in the Covid-hit Tokyo Games three years back.

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"Just because no Indian boxer has won two Olympic medals doesn't mean it can't be done. I am confident that my experience of competing at the grandest stage will hold me in good stead," Lovlina said in an interaction facilitated by iOS Sports.

"Tokyo was a very unique experience considering it happened in a bubble. Still, the nerves that one feels at a stage like the Olympics were very much there. I will approach Paris with far less stage fright. I know what it feels like to live in an Olympic village, compete against the best in the world, to have a nation's expectations pinned on you. All that will count for something," she added.

That experience also means a number of young hopefuls at the national camp in Patiala flock to her to pick her brains. "I enjoy being a mentor sometimes. My only advice to the girls is, trust yourself and forget about the reputation of who you're up against. That's how I prepare my mind too," she said.

Besides Lovlina, Nikhat Zareen (50kg), Preeti Pawar (54kg), and Parveen Hooda (57kg) have earned their tickets to Paris. Next month's (May 25-June 2) World Qualifying Tournament in Bangkok will be the last Paris qualifier.

The lanky boxer moved up to 75kgs from the 69kg class in 2022 after the International Boxing Association (IBA) removed 69kg from the Olympics division. The results have been flattering so far with Lovlina bagging a gold each at the Asian and World Championships and a silver medal at the Hangzhou Asian Games.

"It has been a good start to the new weight class. The body and mind are settled now. Success brings a lot of confidence," she said.

With Lovlina's maintenance weight usually around 75kgs, she finds it easier to maintain muscle mass and strength as compared to the lighter division.

"I feel I am a more natural fit for 75kgs. I can eat healthy without bothering too much about cutting weight. I already have the speed and agility of the lower weight class and I am working to get stronger to counter the more seasoned boxers," she said.

Earlier this month, Lovlina, along with other Paris-bound boxers, had a week-long training camp in Kastamonu in northern Turkey where the Indians sparred with boxers from Italy and Turkey. "It was a great experience. I had 3-4 really fruitful sessions," she said.

With Turkish and Italian boxers yet to qualify in the 75kg class, both nations had sent their best pugilists to hone their skills ahead of the World qualifiers. It gave Lovlina an ideal opportunity to gauge her prospective challengers.

"Usually in sparring, we do not show all our cards but since none of their boxers had qualified, I played my game and judged their potential. If needed, I shall be ready to tweak my game later," said Lovlina who counts her reach as one of her key strengths. "I am also working on reducing my clinching. It is important to appear aggressive to the judges to get points."

Lovlina's aggression, or lack of it, was marked out by men's High Performance Coach Blas Iglesias Fernandez as a problem area recently. Lovlina agreed with Fernandez's suggestion but cautioned against being predictable.

"Aggression is good but you can't be aggressive all the time. Sometimes you have to change the style during a bout. Sometimes, good defence will win you bouts. Boxing is a very cerebral sport and you ought to make the opposition play to your strengths. You can't be a one-trick pony at this level," she said.

Lovlina will head to Kazakhstan next month for an invitational tournament before leaving for Paris "at least 15-20 days in advance" where a date with history awaits.

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    Shantanu Srivastava is an experienced sports journalist who has worked across print and digital media. He covers cricket and Olympic sports.

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