“Since Lovlina has always been taller than her friends, she used to be made fun of in school. But it is her height that helped her become the boxer she is today,” Lovlina Borgohain’s father Tiken had told TOI in an interview in 2018.
On Friday, the 5’9 boxer made the women’s 69kg semifinals at the Tokyo Olympics, assuring herself of at least a bronze. Lovlina, who stopped talking to the media long before the Games, also broke her silence at a virtual press conference.
Yes, she was happy. She seemed calm and focused on her semifinal bout because for her only gold matters. She was also sad that she couldn’t be with her mother, Mamoni, who underwent a kidney transplant in Kolkata in February this year.
Lovlina, who took a short break from the national camp to visit her mother then, said: “I couldn’t spend enough time with my mom after the operation. I stayed with her on the day of the operation but then I had to come back.”
Even as she kept tabs on her mother’s health, Lovlina’s preparation was hampered because of Covid. As her coaches tested positive during the second wave, she was stuck inside a hotel room and had to train on her own for days.
Even last year, after the onset of the pandemic, Lovlina trained at her house in Baramukhia for months. But things only got difficult for her as she contracted the virus and missed the European tour.
“As it is tournaments weren’t happening because of Covid. The few that did happen I couldn’t take part in because of the pandemic. Sparring is very important but I couldn’t do it and had to change my training accordingly,” said Lovlina, who also did her best to help the needy during the pandemic.
Despite all this, she did not lose focus and went ahead with her preparations, with lifting LPG cylinders and working in paddy fields being part of her keep-fit class. She also kept herself updated, watching videos of her opponents.
“From the day the lockdown started, I made sure I would watch at least one video each day, be it on the professional circuit or amateur boxing. This helped me stay focused on my goal. I can’t see anything beyond boxing at this point,” she said.
However, the road travelled has been long.
It all started in 2012 when Lovlina was selected at SAI trials by Padum Boro at Barpathar Girls High School, in Golaghat district in Assam. Lovlina, who hails from the remote Baromukhia village in Golaghat, was a kickboxer in the nascent years. Her elder twin sisters — Licha and Lima — were also kickboxers and represented their state at national age-group meets.
After the trials, she joined Netaji Subhas Regional Centre in Guwahati in June. She hasn’t looked back since.
From watching videos of Muhammad Ali to being inspired by MC Mary Kom, she started winning medals in tour naments around the world. She lost in the quarterfinals in the 2018 Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast but staged a fine comeback with a bronze in the World Championships in 2018 and again the following year.
Lovlina qualified for the Olympics in 2020 after winning her quarterfinal bout in the Asia & Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament held in Amman, Jordan.
But soon, things came to a standstill as the pandemic forced the postponement of the Olympics. But a year’s wait hasn’t blunted her grit and determination.
“Bhoi asile kintu bhoi korile medal nahe (you can win medals only if you can overcome the fear),” she says, revealing the gutsy side of her profile. The fearless streak has taken her this far at the Olympics. Will she take the next two giant steps towards greatness?
(With inputs from Tridib Baparnash)