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Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Back home, Games star says: Forgive me for not being able to get gold

On Olympian Lovlina Borgohain's visit home to Assam, the state government announced several awards for the boxer, including a cheque of Rs 1 crore and post of Deputy SP in the Assam Police

Written by Tora Agarwala | Guwahati |
Updated: August 13, 2021 7:56:45 am
Lovlina Borgohain, Lovlina Borgohain Assam, Lovlina Assam, Assam Olympics, Lovlina Assam Pugilist Lovlina Borgohain and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at the airport. (Express photo)

A week after her historic victory at the Tokyo Olympics, pugilist Lovlina Borgohain returned home to a rousing reception in Guwahati on Thursday.

Borgohain — who is the first from Assam to have won a medal at the Olympics — was received by Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma at Guwahati’s Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport on Thursday. The venue bore a look of festivity, complete with a traditional Bihu group, large cut-outs of the boxer and hundreds lined up to welcome the medallist.

Later in the afternoon, at a public felicitation ceremony organised by the Assam government at the city’s Srimanta Sankardeva Kalakshetra, Sarma announced several awards for Borgohain, including a cheque of Rs 1 crore and the post of Deputy SP in the Assam Police.

Lovlina Borgohain, Himanta Biswa Sarma, Assam Pugilist Lovlina Borgohain with Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma. (Express photo)

Speaking at the function, Borgohain apologised for not winning gold in Tokyo. “Please forgive me for not being able to get a gold medal. But I am happy I did not come back empty-handed. It was only the love, support and prayers of the people of Assam that motivated me and gave me the energy to clinch that bronze in the boxing ring,” she said, adding that she promises to come back with a gold medal from the Paris Olympics in 2024.

On July 30, Borgohain had defeated Chinese Taipei’s Nien-Chin Chen in the welterweight (69kg), ensuring herself a bronze medal. However, on August 4, she lost 0-5 in the semifinals to reigning world champion Busenaz Surmeneli from Turkey.

On Thursday, Borgohain was felicitated with a citation, the traditional Assamese seleng sador, a muga shawl, a xorai and a japi at the ceremony, which was attended by Sarma, Sports Minister Bimal Bora, former athlete and Arjuna awardee Bhogeshwar Baruah, Borgohain’s father Tiken Borgohain, and some legislators of Assam.

Speaking at the function, Sarma said that he was proud of the bronze medal Lovlina had brought home. “Her success at Tokyo will remain etched as a milestone in the sporting history of Assam. We are not worried about what she gets, or doesn’t get in the future…we are proud of what she has already got us and we wish her best,” said Sarma, adding that Borgohain would get a monthly scholarship of Rs 1 lakh till the Paris Olympics to aid her preparations.

He also announced the construction of a sports complex with a boxing academy (worth Rs 25 crore) in Sarupathar in Golaghat district, and a road to be named after her in Guwahati. Borgohain’s four coaches — Prashanta Das, Padum Boro, Sandhya Gurung and Rafael Bergamasco — will also be felicitated with Rs 10 lakh each.

Borgohain said she hoped more players would emerge from Assam. “We have a lot of talent in different nooks and corners of Assam, especially rural areas. I request parents to encourage children to take up sports and not think of it as an obstruction,” she said, adding: “It is not that only academics ensures a career. Contrary to what people think, even sports can make a career.”


Borgohain, who hails from the remote Bara Mukhia village in Golaghat district, recalled the struggles in her journey so far. “When I saw how everyone had come to the airport to welcome me today, I remembered the time when my father took me by train for my first boxing practice outside Assam. We did not even have confirmed tickets then,” she said.

She had earlier told The Indian Express in an interview about the hard times her family had faced when she was growing up. “My father used to do small jobs which would get him 1,500-2,000 a month,” she had said.

On this visit, the boxer will not make a trip home, as she has to return to Delhi to attend the Independence Day ceremony where Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to meet Olympic medallists.

The shy Borgohain, who was introduced to boxing in Class 5 when her father showed her a newspaper clipping of Muhammad Ali, ended the speech saying that she was not used to speaking in public.

“Thank you everyone…I just want to add that I don’t have a habit of speaking in public. I had not cried till now but coming to Assam has made me emotional and I could not express in words half of what I wanted to say. I could not say much today…but I will let my boxing do the talking.”

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