Updated: July 31, 2021 8:06:17 am
In February this year, 23-year-old boxer Lovlina Borgohain made a two-day trip to her village Baromukhia in Golaghat district in Assam from Army Sports Institute, Pune, where she was training. Her mother Mamoni Borgohain suffering from kidney failure and undergoing an operation in Kolkata, the Indian boxer made sure she was by her mother’s side in tough times.
She has not been home since, and now, she can carry an Olympic medal home. A 4-1 split decision over Chinese Taipei’s Nein-Chin Chen assures herself of at least a bronze medal in the 69kg category, making her only the third Indian boxer to win a medal at the Olympics.
For the Borgohain family, it was a time to celebrate as well as remember the tough times they faced. “The biggest joy for us is to watch Lovlina play, and the medal she brings from Tokyo will be our prized possession. When her mother suffered a failure of both her kidneys, she was worried and would not sleep at night worrying about her. When we got the donor, she wanted to be with her. Even though she was able to spend only two days, she made sure she supported the family. It was a second life for my wife and to see Lovlina return with a medal from Tokyo will be a cherished moment for all of us after all the tough times,” told Lovlina’s father Tiken Borgohain, to The Indian Express.
Her father working in a tea garden near Baromukhia, a young Lovlina would grow up seeing her twin sisters Lima and Licha learning Muay Thai, and would also accompany one of her cousins to enrol at the Adarsha Hindi High School at the nearby town of Barpathar under coach Prashanta Kumar Das in 2009. While the family of five were financially constrained, Tiken would always support his daughters to pursue whatever sport they wanted.
“Apart from owning a small farm, I worked in a tea garden near our village and used to earn Rs 2500 per month. With Lima and Licha pursuing martial arts and later Lovlina too opting for martial arts, managing the finances was tough. But I wanted my daughters to play whatever sport they liked. In the initial days, my wife would also take loans from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh from the village cooperative society and we would pay the instalments weekly with a high-interest rate. But somehow, we managed and to see them compete made us proud,” said Tiken, who now owns a small tea farm.
Mixed martial arts
For three years, Lovlina spent hours training Muay Thai, kickboxing and Thang-Ta, Manipur’s traditional martial art form under Das. The youngster would become the Assam champion in Muay Thai, apart from winning gold in Muay Thai nationals at Guwahati in 2010. She also won a silver medal in the Thang-Ta nationals in Jharkhand the same year.
With more than 100 children from nearby villages coming to train under coach Das, Lovlina would often pedal to Barpathar to try her hands at the three martial arts forms. “Like any youngster, Lovlina had her fears of getting hit. But what made her stand apart was her willpower and concentration to learn new moves and observe the opponent’s moves. As Muay Thai requires use of fists, elbows, knees and shins for clinching and gripping, it made Lovlina’s core body strong and competing in Thang-Ta made her body agile, apart from being flexible at a young age. Sometimes we would also take her to compete in Tug-of-war competitions at local village games and she would be one of the strongest competitors among the young kids,” remembers 41-year-old Das.
Twist of fate
A visit by SAI coach Padam Boro at Sarupathar Girls School to select trainees for the SAI centre at Guwahati saw Lovlina being selected for boxing at the academy and the youngster would shift base to Guwahati, a city more than 300 kilometres away from her village in 2012. The same year, she became the sub-junior national champion in the 70 Kg category at the nationals in Kolkata before she was selected for the national camp in Bhopal.
Lovlina went on to win four international medals including a silver medal in the Nations cup at Serbia in the next three years before she made her way into the senior camp in the 75 Kg category in 2016. The following year she would win bronze in Asian Championships in Vietnam followed by the first of her world championship bronze medal in the world championship at New Delhi in 2018. Lovlina repeated that feat in the next edition of the world championships in Russia.
“She understood that to realise her dream, she had to shift to Guwahati and she would always tell us to not worry about her. With her elder twin sisters Lima and Licha too working in CISF and BSF in later years, she knew we missed them but would tell us that they all will make us proud. Whenever she would return to the village, she would make sure that she brought something for us,” remembers Tiken.
While Lovlina qualified for the Tokyo Olympics last year bagging the quota in the Asian Qualifiers in Jordan, the following months were spent at home due to the lockdown. After being awarded the Arjuna award last year, the youngster made an 11-day trip to her village to be with her ailing mother and tested positive for Covid-19 on her return to Patiala.
“My wife has been ailing with the kidney problem since 2017 and while Lovlina spent some months at the village in the initial months of lockdown, once the camp started, she knew that she would get less time. That’s why she came home to visit us amid the national camp. When she tested positive for Covid-19, it was a tough phase for her and the whole family,” says Tiken.
Whenever Lovlina visits the village, she ensures that she also trains with Das and other coaches, “In Muay Thai, one has to use both left as well right hand. So it helps her in boxing against unorthodox boxers too,” says Das.
As for mother Mamoni Borgohain, she will be making Lovllina’s favourite dishes on her return. “She likes to eat Assamese pork dishes apart from masoor jool, a dish made from fish from the nearby ponds. But her favourite is dal bhaat and I am sure she will eat lots of that on her return,” says Tiken.