AS THEY make a final attempt to qualify for the Rio Olympics, India’s women boxers will find the going tough at the Womens World Championships in Astana, Kazakhstan. With 12 quota places up for grabs, Mary Kom (51kg), Sarita Devi (60kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg) will have to reach the semifinal stage in order to assure themselves a spot at the Olympics. The three had earlier failed to qualify in the Asian Olympic qualifiers in Quian’an, China in March, earlier this year.
Their draws, which were released on Wednesday, though will ensure there is no easy passage through. Standing in their way will be World and Olympic champions and medalists as well as opponents who will benefit from being home boxers.
Of the three, Kom has perhaps the most favourable bracket. She opens her campaign against Julia Soderstrom of Sweden. The five- time World gold medalist is expected to get past the 25-year-old Swede.
However, she could run into Myagmardulamyn Nandintsetseg of Mongolia, a bronze medalist in the the 2014 Asian Games in her second round. European gold and World silver medalist and top seed Marzia Davide likely awaits in the prequarter finals.
Eighth seed Zhaina Shekerbekova, whom Kom had beaten in the final of the Incheon Games likely stands between the Indian and an Olympic quota in the quarterfinals. Shekerbekova is likely to benefit from the fact that she is the home boxer. And while Kom might possibly find the going tough against Olympic champion Nicola Adams (provided there are no upsets) in the semifinals, just by reaching that stage, Kom would be assured of the crucial Olympic spot.
Kom’s contemporary in the 60kg category, Sarita faces a steeper challenge. If she overcome Ala Yarosvich in the first round, she might next face Asian Games bronze medalist Luu Thi Duyen.
Kazakh home boxer Rimma Volosenko might be her next opponent in the pre quarter final. If she gets to the quarterfinals, she faces the strong possibility of facing defending Olympic and World champion Katie Taylor. The Irish boxer is only playing the World Championships because she failed to qualify for the Olympics in the first European qualifier. That loss, was the first in five years for Taylor, who is widely expected to defend her Olympic title in Rio.
Pooja Rani, who boxes in the third Olympic weight class of 75kg, benefits from receiving a bye in the first round. Her first opponent will be Ukrainian Mariya Borutsa who isn’t ranked in the AIBA rankings in the second round. Rani’s campaign faces its first challenge in the pre-quarterfinal round.
She faces a potential match-up either against two-time world medallist Elena Vystropova or World Champion and defending Commonwealth Games gold medalist Savannah Marshall in her pre quarterfinal.
In the non-Olympic categories at the World Championships, previous edition’s silver-medallist Sarjubala Shamjetsabam (48kg) has been seeded second and will face the winner of the bout between Hungary’s Virginia Barankai and Sri Lanka’s Erand Kaluhath in the second round after getting a bye in the opening round. In the 54kg division, former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen will be fighting it out against Australia’s Bianca El-Mir in her opening contest on May 20. Pavitra (64kg) has also been seeded second and she will face the winner of the bout between Australian Skye Nicolson and Croat Antonija Pavic.
The third Indian to be seeded was Saweety (81kg), who has been given the second rank and will face Belarus’ Victoriya Kebikava. Sonia Lather (57kg) has to contend with Mongolia’s Gundegmaa Myagmar, while Meena Rani (69kg) will be up against Germany’s Nadine Apetz. In the +81kg category, Seema Poonia will square off against Azerbaijan’s Aynur Rzayeva on May 23.