CHENNAI: Lovlina Borgohain is a household name in Indian boxing. A two-time World Championships bronze medallist, she propelled herself to a different league after her bronze medal return during the 2020 Olympics. She added yet another medal to her trophy cabinet on Friday by clinching the gold medal at the Asian Championships, one among four Indians to achieve the feat on the day.
This continental event being held in Amman, Jordan cannot be compared to the Olympics but this gold is a big boost for the Assam pugilist. After her preferred weight category (69kg) was dropped from the Olympic programme, there were concerns around the 25-year-old adjusting to the new weight category (75kg) as soon as possible.
Also, after touching the highs in Tokyo, and with yet another gruelling schedule ahead, there were question marks if she could recalibrate and get back to business with the same zeal. The fact that she had quiet performances during the 2022 World Championships and Commonwealth Games didn't help.
The latest gold shows that her hunger for the sport remains intact and she means business. She will face stiffer tests, meet more diverse rivals in the months to come but her performance in the aforementioned event was an ideal start.
She was properly tested in the opening hurdle before going on to dismantle her remaining two opponents. Up against Ruzmetova Sokhiba of Uzbekistan in the final, Lovlina was dominant from the word go and rattled her opponent in the opening round with some neat blows. Her command was clear when the referee gave a standing count to Sokhiba. With momentum on her side, Lovlina never looked back and went on to win by a 5-0 verdict.
Bhaskar Bhatt, India women's chief coach, is encouraged by what he has seen. He knows the value of this experience and what Lovlina can bring to the table. "She was mentally prepared for this. It was clear from her face that she was satisfied with her output. This is new to her (weight category), and she is still a work-in-progress but there are certainly a lot of positives. This is a step in the right direction," Bhatt, who was ringside, told this newspaper.
Bhatt said that with the help of sports science experts in the camp, Lovlina has focussed on increasing muscle mass and building strength in recent times. "It's a step-by-step process. Alongside the high performance director, we will sit and chart out plans for her and build on this gold."
Lovlina had entered this event on the back of a good showing during the National Games in Gujarat, where she had captured the top prize in her new weight category. She had beaten Saweety Boora then.
With Lovlina moving up, Saweety, who had been competing in the 75kg weight category, was forced to jump to 81kg. She also proved on Friday that she is here to stay. Up against No 1 seed Gulsaya Yerzhan of Kazakhstan, the Haryana pugilist dominated the contest to walk away with 5-0 win.
Besides the duo, Parveen (63kg) and Alfiya Pathan (+81kg) also enhanced their standing after winning gold medals. Minakshi (52kg), however, fell short in the summit match to bag a silver medal. "All the boxers including those who didn't medal were excellent. They certainly exceeded our expectations," Bhatt said.