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Friday, September 17, 2021

Tokyo 2020: Lovlina Borgohain can win Olympics gold, says coach

Lovlina Borgohain went as an underdog into her women's welterweight quarter-final bout but returned as India’s third Olympic boxing medallist.

Written by Gaurav Bhatt |
Updated: July 31, 2021 8:07:12 am
Lovlina Borgohain lands a punch in her women's welterweight quarter-final against Chen Nien-Chin of Taiwan at the Tokyo Olympics. (PTI)

Two-time World Championship bronze medallist. Two-time Asian Championships bronze medallist. Add an Olympic medal to the list.

Lovlina Borgohain went into Friday’s 69kg quarterfinal as an underdog against Nein-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei, and came out as the third Indian boxer to medal at the Olympics. The 23-year-old beat the former world champion 4-1, and will take on reigning world champion and top seed Busenaz Surmeneli in Wednesday’s semifinal.

Padam Boro, Lovlina’s childhood coach, reminded of his pep talk to his ward, “Do not stress, play your game, bring home the medal”, and added a fourth condition on Friday: “Make it a better colour.”

“You remember, I said she wouldn’t be nervous today,” says Boro, who was glued to the screen along with other coaches at the SAI Guwahati centre, as Lovlina became the third Indian boxer to medal at the Olympics. “I told you that the first performance was not Lovlina at her best. Today was more like it. If she repeats this performance, she can get India a gold.”

The blueprint

Lovlina Borgohain in action in her women’s welterweight quarter-final against Chen Nien-Chin of Taiwan at the Tokyo Olympics. (Reuters)

The blueprint was set in the previous bout, where Lovlina, 23, maximised the height and reach advantages and kept German welterweight Nadine Apetz at bay with jabs and double jabs. On Friday, an underdog against Nein-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei, Lovlina added sharp footwork and attacks from the right side to the mix, earning a 4:1 split decision win and an Olympic medal.

Friday’s bout was a reversal of the loss in the 2018 Worlds semifinal. On that night in New Delhi, squarely in the spotlight and in front of her family and supporters, she seemed fazed by both the occasion and her wily opponent. Chen eyeballed Lovlina, switched stances, dropped hands, feinted and countered. Lovlina failed to close the distance and a frustrated Lovlina was cautioned for hitting her opponent on the back of the head in the clinch.

“This is what happens when you don’t let a defeat be a defeat,” says Boro. “She replayed that loss and studied the opponent and she was rewarded for that today. That Lovlina is long gone. She has grown and improved so much.”

Boro, a coach at Sports Authority of India’s (SAI) Guwahati centre, discovered Lovlina during a talent hunt at the Sarupathar Girls School in 2012.

“We saw the certificates and realised she was a good Muay Thai athlete. She was impressive in all her tests and showed that she could easily become a top boxer,” Boro had told this paper after her opening win. “She needed to be convinced since she was leaving her sport behind. But during training, she got so into boxing that she wouldn’t leave without clearing all her doubts or perfecting a technique we just showed.”

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