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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

Sweet homecoming for boxer Nandini after national gold, Paris Olympics in her sights

The youngster, who has represented Chandigarh in her early years and represents Indian Railways now, emerged as the champion with a 5:0 verdict in her favour against Neha of Haryana.

Written by Nitin Sharma | Chandigarh |
Updated: October 28, 2021 11:05:59 am
The youngster — whose father Harish Sood owns a bunch of shops in Sohana village in Mohali, besides running a cricket advertising business — once weighed more than 86 kilos.

On Wednesday evening, it was a grand homecoming for 21-year-old Nandini — who was returning to her residence in Sector 78 after becoming the national champion in the 81+ kilo category in the Fifth Elite Women National Boxing Championship at Hisar, Haryana — after a gap of more than two months.

And waiting to embrace her back home was Nandini’s proud, but emotional, parents — Harish Sood and Anjali Sood. For Nandini, acing the Fifth Elite Women National Boxing Championship meant that not only had she managed to secure her first medal but she had also booked herself a ticket to the AIBA Women’s World Championship that will be held in Istanbul in December this year.

The youngster, who has represented Chandigarh in her early years and represents Indian Railways now, emerged as the champion with a 5:0 verdict in her favour against Neha of Haryana.

Nandini (on the right) with Railways coach Chhotu Laura

“It is my first medal in the nationals and there is nothing more that I could have asked for. I have been switching categories from 81 kilos to 81+ kilos and my thought was to win the gold in the latter category this year. I am glad that I could continue my winning run till the end during the nationals. We had been training as part of the Indian Railways camp in Guwahati for the last two months and this gold medal is the reward of all the hard work put in by my coaches, including Indian Railways chief boxing coach, Sagar Mal Dhayal and coach, Chhotu Laura,” shared Nandini.

The youngster — whose father Harish Sood owns a bunch of shops in Sohana village in Mohali, besides running a cricket advertising business — once weighed more than 86 kilos. In 2016, she had started to train for boxing, under coach Jai Hind, before training under coach, Bhagwant Singh at Sector 42 Boxing Centre. In 2017, the youngster won the gold medal in the youth category in Seven Nations Cup in Serbia and also won the bronze medal in the youth nationals in Delhi. In 2019. Nandini went on to become the All India Universities champion in the 81-kilo category and also defeated Lalfakwawi at the trials for world championships to be held in Russia in 2019.

Even though the youngster lost in the early round in Russia, the Mohali native never gave up, taking lessons from the exposure she had got. Last year’s lockdown meant that Nandini could not train at a stadium for more than three months and would train through virtual coaching sessions by former Indian team’s foreign coach, BI Fernandez, and PIS coach, Sunandan Bery. She said that she was focusing on winning a medal at the 2024 Paris Olympics.

“When the lockdown happened, Fernandez sir and Beri sir made sure that I trained daily and would conduct online as well as offline coaching sessions at my home. It meant that when the national camp resumed, I was in good shape. Even though I lost early in Russia in the last edition of the world championships, I learned a lot watching boxers from other nations. The next time, I will be better prepared for the world championships. I have been switching weight categories and I know I can compete in the middleweight category (75 kilos), an Olympic category, too in the coming years. I have been seeking tips from Pooja Rani didi, who reached the quarters in 75 kilo category at the Tokyo Olympics,” Nandini said.

Indian Railways boxing team chief coach Sagar Mal Dhayal rates Nandini highly and believes that the youngster will improve further with more international exposure. “One of Nandini’s biggest strengths has been her willingness to learn as well to understand what coaches call ring acumen. She is a very aggressive boxer and has swift feet movement, which is rare in this weight category in India. Getting more international exposure at the senior level will help her a lot in the coming years,” said Dhayal.

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