Boxer Lovlina Borgohain won her women's welterweight quarterfinal clash at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, assuring India of a medal in the process. Lovlina becomes the third Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal, after Vijender Singh (men's middleweight bronze, Beijing 2008) and MC Mary Kom (women's flyweight bronze, London 2012)
India's only medal at the Games so far has been weightlifter Mirabai Chanu's silver in the 49kg division.
Lovlina, currently the World No. 3, beat World No. 2 Chen Nien-Chin of Chinese Taipei 4-1 to ensure she will win at least a bronze medal. The Indian will face Turkey's Busenaz Surmeneli, the reigning World Champion and current World No. 1, in the semifinals on August 4. Surmeneli has won both her previous matches at this Olympics by unanimous decision.
Lovlina, a two-time World Championship bronze medallist, displayed tremendous calm in the face of a plucky opponent who had beaten her in the semifinals of the 2018 World Championships en route to winning gold. The Indian was aggressive to start with and followed it up with a tremendous counter-attacking game, keeping her defence tight in the final three minutes to emerge triumphant.
The 3:2 split decision in the first round went the way of the Indian. The second round was dominated by Lovlina, with all five judges scoring in her favour. In the third round, four of the five judges scored in her favour. The total score was 4-1 in her favour.
The 23-year-old Lovlina, who was laid low by COVID-19 last year and missed a training trip to Europe because of it, let out a huge scream after the referee raised her hand, pent up emotions finally getting the better of her.
"She stuck to the plan of counter-attacking and taking advantage of her height. She had tried being aggressive with this girl in the previous bout and lost. So this time, we told her 'aap khade raho, usko aane do (you stay where you are, let her come to you)'," national coach Mohammed Ali Qamar told PTI.
"And what a cool mind she displayed, never got excited. Never tried to barge in. She executed the plan to perfection. Had she tried to go on offensive, she would have ended up getting hit," he said.
Who is Lovlina Borgohain?
Hailing from the Golaghat district of Assam, Lovlina started as a kickboxer (like her elder twin sisters Licha and Lima Borgohain), before switching to boxing in 2012. She burst into the spotlight after winning bronze at the 2017 Asian Championships and gold at the 2018 India Open.
Lovlina backed up her bronze at the 2018 World Championships with another bronze at the 2019 edition of the tournament.
How did she qualify for Tokyo?
Lovlina secured her Olympic quota, becoming the first woman from Assam to qualify for the Olympics, by entering the semifinals of the Asia & Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament in March 2020. She won bronze after losing in the semifinals to 2018 World silver medallist Gu Hong of China.
"The priority for us was to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. Once I did that, I probably let myself relax a bit, which is why I lost in the semis," she told the Olympic channel at the time.
How was her form coming into Tokyo?
Borgohain tested positive for COVID-19 in October 2020, and missed the Indian contingent's boxing trip to Italy in November.
In 2021, Borgohain participated in the Boxam International boxing tournament in Spain, where she lost 0-5 to Russia's Saadat Dalgatova in the quarterfinals.
At this year's Asian Boxing Championships, shifted from New Delhi to Dubai due to the pandemic, from May 24-31, Lovlina won bronze.
(With inputs from PTI)