This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Indian women’s boxer Laishram Sarita Devi has learn to take things in her stride. A week after being denied a shot at gold in the Incheon Asian Games, the 32-year-old India pugilist is now wearing a ‘mellowed’ look and setting her sights at the upcoming World Championship to be held in Korea in November. Sarita had won the 2006 World Championship in New Delhi in the 54-kg and later followed it up with a bronze in the same weight category in the 2008 World Championship in Ningbo, China. The Manipuri lass earlier had won the silver at the 2005 World Championship in Podolsk, Russia.
Devi had stunned defending champion and the then World No. 2 Gulsum Tatar of Turkey 2012 World Championship in Qinhuangdao, China, where she eventually lost in the pre-quarterfinals. The Manipur Police DSP also won the gold at the 2012 Asian Championship in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. She spoke on a range of topics in an exclusive interview.
Q. Congratulations on winning the bronze medal. You seemed to have grabbed the eyeballs more for your emotional outburst at being denied a final berth rather than your bronze-winning effort at the Incheon Asian Games. Your thoughts.
So much has been said about it and now I don’t feel like repeating the whole episode. Nothing more is bigger for an athlete than bagging a medal at a big-ticket event and I was determined to win the gold medal for my country in the 60-kg category, but destiny perhaps had planned something else. There was a huge outpouring of emotions when I lost the semifinal bout, and the happenings at the medal presentation ceremony were just an expression of what I was going through.
Q. When you look at that semifinal bout against Park Jina of Korea, did you ever felt that you were a tad over the top with her reactions?
Not at all! I thought Park was a very mediocre boxer. I must say that my opponents in my earlier rounds were much better than Park Jina. I defeated North Korean Chunson in the first round and Mongolian Oyungerel Suvd Erdene in the quarterfinals and I had to be really at my best to beat both of them. I’m apologetic for my emotional outburst after the bout, but I cannot deny that I deserved to win that bout.
Q. Indian boxing have gone through tough times over the last few years. The then Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF) – now Boxing India (BI) was banned by AIBA in December 2012 and the world body has only granted provision recognition to the Indian federation. So you must have tendered a written apology keeping all these in mind?
Absolutely. I don’t want Indian boxing to suffer because of me as we all know what we have been going through over the last few years. Indian boxers have not been able to take part in international competitions under the national flag. Our international exposure trips have also been affected and I felt that my actions should not be a hindrance to the progress of Indian boxing on the world stage.
Q. You have made many sacrifices to reach where you are. You have a two-year son Tumthil whom you haven’t seen for a long time owing to all your national camps and international competitions. You must be delighted to be spending time with your son?
He came to receive me at the Imphal airport along with my family members and I was expected to see him there. I’m going to spend some quality time with my son and hopefully make up for my lost time. The Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games have meant that things have been pretty hectic at my end and I intend to unwind with my family members and gradually take it from there.
Q. MC Mary Kom has come out in support of you after you lost the semifinal bout. Your thoughts
I’m glad that she lent her support hand when I was down in the mouth. I’m also happy for her considering that she won the Asiad gold.
Q. Your success along with that of MC Mary Kom on the international stage brings to the fore the strong support system both enjoy. Isn’t it amazing that both families have done so much in ensuring the both of you excel in the boxing ring even after becoming a mother?
Like Mary, I’m also fortunate to have a robust support system. My husband Thoiba Singh has been such a pillar of support that I can easily concentrate on boxing. Even after my son was born in 2012, my hubby as well as my family members have taken a lot of pain to ensure my boxing does not get derailed in any way because of family commitments.
I owe a lot of my success to them. Same for Mary – her family members have sacrificed a lot for her success in the ring.
Q. You and Mary Kom have been the torchbearers of Indian women’s boxing. Any exciting new talents coming up from your home state?
There are quite a few talented young women boxers in Manipur, who have the potential to make their mark on the international stage. Not just Manipur, there is a lot of talent in Assam also as well as in other parts of Northeast. I’m confident of more talented women boxers emerging from the Northeast region.
Q. Your are 32 now – you have won the world championship once besides a silver and bronze, a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games and an Asiad bronze besides numerous medals you have won at various international events. So what’s next?
The 2014 World Amateur Women’s World Championship will be held in Korea in November and I’m focusing on that. Hopefully the world body will take a positive view of my apology and I will be up and running boxing for my country provided I meet the qualifying requirements at the national trials. Of course, the 2016 Rio Olympics is my main target and I hope to make it there.
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