CHENNAI:There was no sign of injury. Nor was there any indication of fatigue fomented by long months of layoff. Though a short stint, every day in Liverpool was a learning experience. In the end pugilist L Sarita Devi returned with loads of experience and more importantly feels rejuvenated and wiser.
Spending a year on the sidelines without doing the thing Sarita loves most was frustrating. Never before has she endured such an affliction. “It was simply nauseating,” was how she summed up the one-year ban after last year’s Asian Games fiasco. It’s all of the past now. Every day has been new for her and when she left for a 10-day exposure trip to Liverpool last month, she was ready to begin a new journey.
“Liverpool is a new chapter,” she said from Imphal on Thursday. “Everything was different. It’s all so structured. The training environment was very conducive so were the people. The climate allows you to work harder as well. Charles Atkinson, my trainer/coach there, was a true professional. Our thrust was in getting my power and endurance back.”
Sarita’s penchant for choosing male boxers as sparring partners followed her to Liverpool as well. Like in the past at home, Sarita sparred with male boxers in Liverpool. “She sparred with Great Britain’s Olympic hopefuls, especially in bantamweight and flyweight categories,” said her husband Thoiba Singh, who accompanied her.
Physical trainer L Delhila Devi and Sarjubala Devi, the young Manipuri in light-flyweight (48kg), completed the quartet. London Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom visited Atkinson days before Sarita. “He is one of the best coaches I have trained under,” Sarita said.
Sarita, while praising the facilities in Liverpool, felt it was high time India too had something alike. “I am not saying that we don’t have it but we can really improve. Hopefully we will have such great facilities and a more conducive environment here.” Thoiba felt not just training, even the support staff and dietary needs were met professionally. “The diet there caters to every need of a boxer,” he said. “Sport-specific exercises and training to develop each and every muscle needed for the sport and building endurance are something they take very seriously. Atkinson told me he believed Sarita can win a medal at the Olympics.”
She will start practicing from November 15 onwards. “I hope I have a very fruitful season,” Sarita said.
She expressed gratitude to all who made the journey possible. She insisted all those who helped her must be mentioned. “I have to thank the Sports Ministry (TOP Scheme), the Sports Authority of India and my supporter Olympic Gold Quest. Also the AIBA ad-hoc committee that made this journey possible.”