Lovlina chases historic Olympic final berth against world champion


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The 23-year-old boxer from Assam has become only the third Indian boxer to ensure a podium finish at the Olympics

India's Lovlina Borgohain (red) celebrates after winning against Chinese Taipei's Nien-Chin Chen after their women's welter (64-69kg) quarter-final boxing match during the Tokyo Olympic Games at the Kokugikan Arena in Tokyo on July 30. (Photo: AFP)

Tokyo: A medal already secured, Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) will be in pursuit of history when she takes on reigning world champion Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey in the Olympic semifinals here on Wednesday, aiming to become the first ever Indian boxer to advance to the Games final.

The 23-year-old from Assam, who started her career as a Muay Thai practitioner, has become only the third Indian boxer to ensure a podium finish at the showpiece after Vijender Singh (2008) and M C Mary Kom (2012).

Hers is also the first Olympic medal in boxing in nine years and the aim now is to reach where none before her has reached, the finals.

"Since the bout is in the afternoon, we have been training in the afternoon everyday for the past two days," national coach Mohammed Ali Qamar told PTI on the eve of the crucial fight.

"As for Lovlina, all that needs to be conveyed in terms of strategy has been conveyed to her and she is ready. These two have never faced each other before so it is an unchartered territory for both of them," he added.

"She is very upbeat and confident about a good performance and I am sure she will deliver."

The boxer herself seemed pretty clear about her path ahead after the semifinal win over former world champion Nien-Chin Chen on the Chinese Taipei.

"Medal to bas gold hota hai, let me get that first," she had said after the historic triumph which ensured that the nine-strong Indian boxing team that came here has at least one medal to celebrate.

Borgohain has shown remarkable composure for a debutant at the sport's biggest extravaganza. And it is this poise that might do the trick for her against the imposing opponent from Turkey, who is seeded top in the draw.

Surmeneli is also 23 and has collected two gold medals this year internationally.

The former middlewight (75kg) boxer claims to have promised an Olympic medal to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan back in 2015 itself.

Borgohain is no novice either and has secured two world championship bronze medals so far in her career.

In fact, both Borgohain and Surmeneli competed in the 2019 championships, from where the latter came out champion, while the former settled for a bronze.

The two, however, did not face off after landing up in different halves of the draw.

Borgohain has been candid enough to admit that she hasn't been the most fearless boxer in her career but several mind exercises and meditation later, she has found the self-belief that is needed for a big stage like the Olympics.

"I have started believing in myself, I have stopped caring about what others say, that's how I have become fearless," she said.

That self-belief would be crucial when she steps inside the ring on Wednesday, trying to change the colour of her medal against a formidable rival.