CHENNAI: The IBA Women's World Boxing Championships is around the corner. In a calendar year that has events like Asian Games and Commonwealth Games, the World Championships is the first real test for women pugilists in the country. The preparations so far have been far from ideal.
There is no high performance director for the women's team after Raffaele Bergamasco left in September following the Tokyo Olympics. The training has been affected due to COVID-19 but the boxers are gradually gaining ground under the eyes of several Indian coaches in the national camp in Delhi.
Bearing in mind the world event, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) will be sending a team (both men and women) for an IBA test event - Strandja Memorial Tournament - in Bulgaria in mid-February, a welcome boost for the boxers.
The Bulgaria event is scheduled to be held from February 19 to 28 and according to the BFI, all the national champions will take part. The team is expected to leave by February 17. The BFI was initially planning to conduct the trials for the World Championships, Asiad and CWG from February 10 but decided to postpone it to a later date.
As mentioned earlier, the COVID-19 situation has made life difficult for the campers with some of them contracting the virus and being forced into isolation. Considering the same, the BFI thought it would be prudent to give the boxers some time so that they can put their best foot forward during the trials.
The BFI, earlier, had set February 10-12 as tentative dates for the trials for the women's world meet and February 14-16 as dates for the CWG and Asiad (both men and women). "We felt it is too early to pick a team. If we hold it late, the boxers will have more time to prepare and give their 100 per cent and that should be favourable for the team," BFI general-secretary Hemanta Kalita told The New Indian Express on Wednesday.
As things, the BFI are undecided on the new dates for the trials but they're hopeful that they can conduct the same towards the end of February or early March. However, IBA could act as a stumbling block to their plans as there's a deadline date (February 28, according to BFI) to send entries for the women's world event.
As such, the BFI has sent a request to IBA to postpone the entry deadline and are awaiting the world body’s response. "We have requested the IBA to give us time to send entries. The last date is February 28. We have told them we want to send our best team. The decision is pending. Let's see," Hemanta revealed.
As for the trials for the women’s world meet, which was originally supposed to be held late last year and was postponed to 2022 due to COVID, every camper will be eligible to take part. Even the likes MC Mary Kom and Lovlina Borgohain, who had given last year's nationals a miss, will be in contention for the big event. Both of them, at present, are training on their own and are expected to join the rest of the campers in Delhi soon.
With the women’s high performance director's post vacant, Santiago Nieva, who is on the verge of returning as men’s high performance director, is also expected to guide the women boxers for the time being.
"We do have good coaches in India. We do want to bring in high performance director of course. We have Nieva. He understands the system very well. Until someone joins, Nieva will take up the responsibility. He'll mainly make plans, the Indian coaches will work on the implementation part," Hemanta said.