This piece was published in Sportskeeda
Chakar – a nondescript hamlet – tucked away in the Ludhiana district of Punjab has been catapulted into spotlight, following the exploits of boxer Mandeep Kaur Sandhu in the AIBA World Junior Boxing Championship at Taipei (Taiwan). The 16-year-old Chakar girl shot into prominence winning the 52-kg gold medal outboxing Ireland’s Niamh Earley in the final.
Mandeep owes her success to Sher-E-Punjab Sports Academy, where she has been training since 2010. The youngster, who had won the 2011 and 2012 National Sub-junior Titles, had earlier in the year picked up a gold medal in the 4th Junior Nations Boxing Cup held in Serbia. The coy pugilist, who is otherwise ruthless in the ring, spoke about her boxing among others in an exclusive interview.
Q. How special was it winning the gold medal in the AIBA World Junior Boxing Championship at Taipei (Taiwan)?
I wanted to perform well in the World Junior Boxing Championship as it is a big event. I’m feeling good that I was able to win a gold medal for the country. There is nothing like doing well in the World Championships.
Q. You outboxed Ireland’s Niamh Earley to clinch the gold medal in the 52-kg category. Tell us about your bout.
My Irish opponent was a tough nut to crack. The gold medal did not come on a platter as I had to be at my best to beat her. It was a closely fought bout, but I had the last laugh with a 3-0 scoreline.
Q. You fought a total of four bouts en route to the gold medal finish. Share us your experiences of all the bouts.
I faced a boxer from England in my first round and managed to pull it off in a facile manner. My quarterfinal and semifinal bouts against Hungarian and French opponents went right down to the wire. Both opponents were throwing punches at me, but I boxed better than them to reach the final.
Q. How was the atmosphere when you returned to your village Chakar (in Ludhiana district) after returning from Taiwan?
I had won many medals at the national level and I was thinking why the reaction from my family members and people from my village were different this time around. A lot of people visited me and congratulated me – sweets were distributed and everyone burst into celebrations something I was not used to earlier. The encouragement from my near and dear ones as well as my fans and supporters will surely spur me to chase more glory in future.
Q. Do you receive any financial rewards for winning the World Championship gold medal?
The Punjab government, as well as NRIs from my village, have honoured me with financial rewards. In total, I have received a cash award of Rs. 15 lakh, 25% of which I have donated for the poor and under-privileged people of my village, so that they can pursue sports.
Q. Your boxing career really took shape when you joined the Sher-E-Punjab Boxing Academy, run by NRI brothers late Ajmer Singh Sidhu and Baldev Singh Sidhu. How much you owe your World Championship gold medal to this academy?
I owe everything to Sher-E-Punjab Boxing Academy as without their support it would have been not possible for me to come this far. Both Ajmer Singh Sidhu Sir and Baldev Singh Sidhu Sir encouraged me a lot and Ajmer Sir, who died last year had once said one day a boxer from this academy will play in the Olympics. My coaches Balwant Singh Sandhu and Surinder Kaur have really guided me and their contribution is something I can never forget.
Q. Talking of Olympics, ideally, you are setting your sights at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
I cannot take part in the selection trials for the 2016 Rio Olympics because of the age criterion. But I’m definitely looking to make a mark in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.