Asian Games bronze medallist L Sarita Devi failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics while five time world champion Mary Kom’s hopes are hanging by the slimmest of threads after the two boxers lost in second round bouts of the AIBAWomen’s World Boxing Championships in Astana on Saturday.
With four quota places on offer in each of the three Olympic weight categories, the two boxers had to reach the semifinals to book an automatic berth in the Rio Games. Mary Kom (51kg), who was a bronze-medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, lost 0-2 to Germany’s Azize Nimani, while Sarita was beaten 0-3 by Victoria Torres in the second Round of the 60kg division.
The only Olympic hope left for India in the event is Pooja Rani (75kg), who is in the pre-quarterfinals after winning her opening bout on Friday. Owing to her fourth place finish at the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifiers in March this year, Kom still has a small chance of making it through.
Only the finalists — China’s Ren Cancan and Uzbekistan’s Yodgoroy Mirzaeva — at the Continental qualifier had earned an automatic quota.
However both Cancan and Chinese Taipei’s Lin Yu-ting — who had finished third after beating Mary in a box-off are competing at the World Championships. If Cancan and Yu-ting earn a quota in Astana, they relinquish their quota from the Asian qualifiers which then passes on to Mary.
The Chinese Taipei boxer had beaten the Indian in the box-off for third place in Quianán. If Mary had finished third, she would only need China’s Cancan, the defending Olympic silver medalist to make it to the medal round in order to qualify.
“Right now she (Mary) has not qualified. The only possibility for her to qualify is if No. 1 (Ren Cancan) and No. 3 (Lin Yu-ting) from the Asia/Oceania Olympics tournament finish with a medal in Astana,” says Nicolas Jomard, AIBA Senior Manager Corporate & Media Relations, AIBA.
This will not be the first time Kom will depend on others’ performances to qualify for the Olympics. At the 2012 World Championships, which served as a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics, Kom, lost out in the quarterfinals to Britain’s Nicola Adams. However, Kom qualified through the Asian quota after Adams reached the finals.
But while Mary has an outside chance with both Cancan and Yu-ting advancing to the pre-quarterfinals on Saturday, the door is almost certainly shut for Sarita Devi. Devi lost out in the quarterfinals of the Asian Championships, finishing too far behind to benefit from any relinquished quota.
“I gave my best effort after a lot of sacrifices. Winning and losing is a part of game. The decision hurts me but it is not in my hand. I just have to respect the judges decision with true sportsmanship,” Mary Kom was quoted as saying.
“I believe God has a different plan for me. I want to thank all my fans and my support team for not letting me down in this crucial moment. I wish our remaining Indian boxers all the best and I hope they make our country proud,” she added.
Nimani will next be up against top seed Davide Marzia of Italy who got the better of Hungary’s Katalin Ancsin. In an exciting contest, Mary Kom took off aggressively but Nimani managed to keep her at bay by fighting from a distance.
In fact, Nimani hardly attempted any attack on the Indian in the opening two minutes but managed to connect a few counter-jabs to take the initial edge.
Mary Kom continued to be aggressive in the second round as well, connected much better but failed to get the judges’ nod, who again ruled in favour of Nimani on a split decision.
Gaining in confidence, Nimani stuck to her gameplan and forced Mary Kom to let her guard down. The diminutive Manipuri threw herself aggressively at the German, whose punching was far from clean. Nimani’s defensive tactics frustrated Mary Kom, who tried hard to engage the back-pedalling German.
However, the determined attack failed to yield the desired results for Mary Kom as Nimani was declared winner on a split vote.
In the evening session, Sarita started off confidently against Torres but the Mexican’s persistence helped her clinch the bout. Both the boxers went all out from the word go and nearly exhausted each other by the third round. Sarita was ahead in the opening two rounds on split decisions but Torres roared back in the next two to oust the veteran Indian, who was eyeing her maiden Olympic berth.