CHENNAI: When Lovlina Borgohain was dancing around the ring, landing those winning punches, two people were glued to their TV screens watching history unfold.
When the referee raised Lovlina's hand, signalling her semifinal progress (and the medal of course), her 'mother' could not be prouder. Lovlina's coach Sandhya Gurung, who shares a special bond with her ward, is generally stern when it comes to giving Lovlina boxing drills. However, their relationship is like a mother and daughter. "She performed as expected, I'm happy of course. That's what you want your wards to do," Sandhya, who's known Lovlina since her sub-junior days, says.
Even though Lovlina was keen on having Sandhya by her side due to the cap on the number of support staff, Sandhya had left a special instruction for her before her departure. "She wanted me to come along. She was saying plenty of things, saying 'I'll miss all the training sessions'. I had told her just think that I'm there in your mind. Just think about my voice... me giving you instructions and then get going during your training in my absence. I had told her when you come back with a medal, I will receive you."
In normal circumstances, Sandhya would usually be the vocal one, egging her ward from the ringside. This time it was no different, albeit from far away in front of her TV screen. "I thought she didn't deliver the kind of punches that she wanted. I usually shout a lot by the ringside... Raffaele Bergamasco (sir) gets mad at me sometimes for overdoing it. But I feel that's necessary sometimes. So, I was shouting and making analysis of her performance here," she says.
Her coaching mantra has worked wonders for Lovlina, who has medalled in big events apart from this Olympic hit. Under her guidance, Lovlina has gradually learnt to keep away fears that would taunt her in the past. "Now, she has improved a lot in that aspect and has started playing with confidence. I won't say she is 100 per cent. She can still improve," she notes.
Delighted after Lovlina's medal-assuring win, Abhishek Malviya recalled the time he met Lovlina for the first time. "She was taller than the rest and had long hair then," he says. That was nine years ago when the sport was introduced to her.
Under the close watch of Padum Boro and Abhishek, Lovlina had had her early lessons after being getting admitted to SAI Regional Centre, Guwahati. "She was part of the trials. She was the tallest in the group. There was a football coach who told us this girl would go on to do big things. I used to be tough on her, I used to scold her. Jamuna Boro (India boxer) was also there," Abhishek, who was currently the youth men's team coach, says.
Even though she had the height advantage over the rest, Lovlina was a slow learner. "Jamuna used to grasp quite fast. Lovlina used to make mistakes, so I used to scold her when she made mistakes. But sometimes she would get emotional, get offended."
Interestingly, one would think her Muay Thai background would be a bonus. But that was not always the case according to Abhishek. "She was raw talent. We had selected her on the basis of motor qualities. Muay Thai's stance/basics are entirely different. We had to unlearn and then learn boxing. Even if you watch now, sometimes it seems like her stance is what we see in Muay Thai."
Lovlina had left a touching note, thanking Abhishek after securing the quota last year.