CHENNAI: For the last year, Lovlina Borgohain couldn’t even think about training. She was struggling to get her life together. Her mother, Mamoni, was ailing and her heart was at home. She yearned to be beside her. Torn between profession and family, it was testing times for her. But she had to keep her focus on boxing. The sport that has now given her a chance to mend life of those she loves. Her mother is now recovering and the medal has come as a potion to soothe all they had to endure in the last few months.
The nagging illness first surfaced in 2015 after some medical complications while undergoing treatment in Golaghat, Assam. It took a serious turn in the back end of last year. The 23-year-old was under a lot of stress. With the pandemic and an uncertain future, it was getting more and more difficult for her to keep focus. Something not ideal for elite boxers.
Lovlina’s family had taken her mother to Kolkata for treatment — an eventual kidney transplant — in October. During that period, she took a break from the national camp to be with her. As fate would have it, she contracted Covid-19 on her return. She was in isolation, spending lonely nights fighting the demons in the head in a hotel room. She was also forced to miss a crucial Italy trip for training and competition last year (October to December). All that she could do was train online. The Boxing Federation of India helped her all through out whenever she needed.
“It was very difficult. The amount of time I should have spent with her, I could not. The issue had started during lockdown. Even during the operation, I could not be with her. I could just go there for one day. I feel bad a lot,” Lovlina, who competes in 69kg, recalled. The stressful times had continued until her mother underwent an operation successfully earlier this year in February. “She was under a lot of stress then. We were in Kolkata. She stayed for a couple of days and left after the operation,” Tiken, Lovlina’s father, said.
When she stepped inside the ring against the fancied Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei, her sole target was to land punches, close down her opponent and swivel away. Attack and don’t get hit. So when she put up that fight ‘without strategy’ in the ongoing Tokyo Olympics to ensure a medal (India’s second) on Friday, it was cathartic. After an arduous year filled with challenges, the 69-kg pugilist, who usually prefers to keep to herself, could finally afford to smile during a virtual interaction.
“I had lost four times against her in the past. So I wanted to prove myself, this was a great chance. I could avenge those defeats here. I didn’t have any strategy because the opponent can catch them. I just wanted to enter the ring and see how it goes and deal with the situation then. It was a great feeling. It was great fun,” Lovlina said. Challenges are not new to Lovlina. Coming from a humble background, she has seen her father struggle to keep the family afloat.
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She has seen how he helped her and her twin sisters (Licha and Lima) chase their dreams. Like a quintessential Assamese family, all ploughed on to help the youngest child realise her Olympic dream.
Whether pursuing sports or studies, Tiken always supported her and the two sisters. A farmer by profession, he had to work in a tea garden to generate more income. Her twin sisters were initially into Muay Thai and that’s where Lovlina got her first taste of combat sport. She followed their footsteps, before switching to boxing in 2012.
Seeing their enthusiasm, Tiken decided to support them. Few people in their village also pitied her parents for having no sons. Her mother would ask her to focus on her goals and prove them they're strong, or do better. "It was her dream. She had told us that she'll bring home an Olympic medal. I hope she can reach the final," Tiken said.
Having completed the first task of assuring a medal, she is now aiming to build on the momentum and come back with a gold medal. "I don't want to stop at bronze, I want to go for gold," the third Indian boxer to win a medal at Olympics, declared.