The Indian women’s boxing team returned from the seventh edition of the AIBA World Women’s Boxing Championships at Qinhuangdao, China with not much to show for in terms of recognition of achievement. Although the squad bagged only one medal and one Olympic qualification, experts believe the performance of the Indian pugilists at the Championships was above par and will be instrumental in the grand scheme of the sport in India. Secretary General of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation, Brig PK Muralidharan Raja, who accompanied the team to China, is of the opinion that Indian women showed great talent and played well enough, but were unable to make a deep run in the tournament as they faced steep competition in their side of the draw. He said, “All Our boxers did exceedingly well; it’s unfortunate that many of them lost to eventual medallist and couple of them to the gold medallist in their weight divisions. All in all the performance was outstanding; maybe if the draw had been a bit easier we could have won another three to four medals. Considering their last performance at the Barbados World Championship the boxers have improved a lot, which was evident in the way the girls fought against top class contenders. He also reiterated the importance of securing an Olympic qualification and the effects it will have on the future of women’s boxing in India, “The fact that MC Mary Kom will be representing the country at the biggest sporting arena in the world, will be an eye opener for the all the women boxers in India. It is a big boost for the Indian women who wish to and have taken of up boxing as a profession; it will give them the belief and confidence that they are capable of making it big. I think it is a huge breakthrough,” expressed Brig Raja.
National Coach Anoop Kumar believes that although the results were not as favourable, but the performance of the Indian women at the world championship is worthy of appreciation – with five of the Indian pugilists making it to the quarter-final stage – and it augurs a promising future for the sport in the country. He said, “There is no doubt that we have a quite a few areas to improve upon, but we are on the right track and the results will be seen in the next edition of WC, the 2014 Asian and Commonwealth Games.” The Dronacharya Awardee also expressed his delight with the kind talent the country has seen in the sport in the recent years and believes that the strong bank of boxers will solidify our position. He stated, “There is a lot of fresh talent coming through the ranks and they are eager to break into the international scene and not just in the senior tour. This is a good sign for Indian boxing, as it builds our bank of boxers”.
Asian Championship bronze medallist Kavita Chahal (+81kg) was the lone Indian woman boxer to clinch a medal at the World Championships. She beat Semsi Yarali of Turkey in a hard fought contest (15:14) in the quarter-final stage of the championship, but the 27 year old had to settle for a bronze medal finish after losing out to Kazakhstan's Yuldus Mamatkulova (9:15) in the semis. The silver lining for the India camp was the Olympic berth secured by five time world champion MC Mary Kom (51kg). Kom, who is considered no less than a legend of the sport, has won a medal in all the previous editions of the World championships since its inception in 2001. The Qinhuangdao WC was the first time she was participating in the fly weight division (51kg) – an alteration made from light fly weight class (48kg) because of it being not included in the Olympic program – and the only time she failed to win a medal at the world championships. Mary first played in this weight bracket at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and returned with a bronze medal after losing out to Ren Cancan of China in the semi-finals. But she came back strongly at the 2012 Asian Championships in March this year, where she beat Ren Cancan en route to bagging the gold. The WC was her first major worldwide competition in the flyweight division and although she did not win a medal but the quality of boxing put on show, by 29 year old, was nothing short of extra ordinary. Her performance leading up to the quarter-finals was exceptional and even in the round of eight she delivered some telling blows but in the end lost to second seeded Natasha Jonas of England by a narrow margin. Brig Raja explains, it was the experience and superior ring craft of the former champion that helped her reach the quarter-finals. He stated, “In her opening bout against Minako Ayawo of Japan she displayed great maturity, adapting and changing her technique to tackle the aggressive play of her opponent. Her bout against Marielle Hansen of Norway in the round of 16 was another class act. In the quarters, she came up short against Adams, but not before giving the English boxer a run for her money”. Despite losing out in the quarter, Mary made the cut for the London Games with her quarter-final opponent Adams, beating Russia's Elena Savelyeva (11-6) and making it to the semi-finals of Championship. “It was not the ideal way to have qualified for the Olympics, nonetheless I am happy to have made it and will try my level best to have a favourable result in London”, expressed Mary. She also remarked on the problems she faced with the change in her weight division, “I know how the Asian boxers fight, but this was the first time I played against the European boxers in the 51 kilogram wt division. Because of the Olympics a lot of boxers have shifted into to the 51kg bracket from 54kg and 57kg as well. The main problem is the height difference; taller boxers are always difficult to fight. But the experience that I have gained will be very helpful for me in my preparation for the mega event”, stated the 29 year old mother of two.
Group Photo of the 7th AIBA Women's World Championship Squad at the IGI Airport, New Delhi
It was a disappointing result for five times Asian Champion L Sarita Devi (60kg) who failed to qualify for the Olympics. But like her Manipur comrade Mary, the 30 year old put up a sterling performance at the championships. Sarita moved up three weight classes earlier this year – owing to her preparations for the Olympics – and went on to win her fifth consecutive gold medal and the light weight title at the Asian Championships. In Qinhuangdao, she beat second seed and former world champion Tatar Gulsum of Turkey in the preliminaries before losing out in the pre-quarters to Natasha Jonas of England, in what was a fight to the finish. But with Jonas settling for a bronze medal after losing out in the semis, Sarita’s chance of making it to the London Games also ended. It was a disheartening outcome for Sarita, considering the fact she had beaten most of the Asian boxer at the continental championship (including Mavzuna Chorieva of Tajikistan who qualified for the Olympics in the WC) after just a few months of training in this weight division. National Coach Chandra Lal who has been working closely with Sarita believes if the draw would have been a little favourable the result could have been very different. He stated “Sarita fought really well throughout the tournament and even in the pre-quarterfinals she lost by a very small margin. She had already proved her mettle against top Asian boxer at the Continental Championships in Mongolia. One could say that she was a bit unlucky considering she had beaten Chorieva – one of the Asians to qualify for the Olympics – less than three months ago”.
Brig Raja with MC Mary Kom at IGI Airport, New Delhi
Silver medallist at the Asian Championships Pinki Jangra (48kg) also gave a good account of herself in Qinhuangdao reaching the quarter-final stage. She eventually lost to second seeded and 2011 European Champion Svetlana Gnevanova of Russia, who went on to bag the gold medal in the light fly weight division. In the feather weight division (57kg) K Mandakini Chanu put up a brave performance in the preliminaries, but suffered defeat at the hands of world number one and the eventual gold medal winner Tiara Brown of USA. Meena Rani (64kg), Jenny RL (81kg) and Neetu Chahal (69kg) also lost to eventual medal winner. Meena and Jenny made it to the quarter-finals, losing out in the end to Mikhaela Mayer of USA and Timea Nagy of Hungary respectively, whereas Neetu went down in hard fought contest (in the pre-quarters) at the hands of world no. 1 Marie de Jong of Netherlands.