Lovlina Borgohain’s journey from Baro Mukhia village of Assam’s Golaghat district to the Olympics podium is a story of hardship that is certain to inspire generations to come.
Born to a small-scale businessman Tiken and homemaker Mamoni, the family faced financial struggles and the patriarchal mind-set of society while growing up.
Despite being ridiculed for being a part of a family that had no sons and three daughters, her parents always encouraged her to prove the naysayers wrong and that’s exactly what she did in the due course of time.
Catching the eye while practising Muay Thai
Combat sports though seemed to run in her family. Lovlina, who was pursuing Muay Thai with her elder twin sisters Licha and Lima, switched to boxing when Sports Authority of India (SAI) boxing coach Padum Boro spotted her talent and started coaching her in 2012.
Even though her sisters did not pursue combat sports beyond the national stage, Lovlina was always destined to do something special irrespective of the obstacles in her way.
While it could have been easy for her to throw in the towel as her father struggled to support her ambitions financially, Lovlina didn’t let such hardships steal away from her focus.
She even overcame COVID-19 to become just the third Indian boxer to win an Olympic bronze medal after six-time world champion MC Mary Kom (London 2012) and Vijender Singh (Beijing 2008).
One of her real tests on her journey to Olympic glory came as recently as July of last year when she tested positive for coronavirus just hours before boarding a flight to Italy for a 52-days training-cum-competition trip.
A People’s Champion
She had contracted the virus while attending to her ailing mother in Assam. Lovlina’s selfless nature, in fact, came to the fore earlier when she helped the natives of her village during the COVID-19 enforced lockdown in the country last year.
She herself was involved in the distribution of vegetables, dry rations and 250 packets of fruits to the needy.
Post her own recovery from COVID-19, the government facilitated a personalized training camp in Guwahati and a month’s training at Assisi, Italy just before the Olympics.
In Tokyo, the Assamese pugilist breezed through her opponents to ensure herself a medal. She defeated former world champion Chen Nien-chin of Chinese Taipei in the quarter-finals and Germany’s Nadine Apetz in the Round of 16.
However, she lost to eventual gold medal winner Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey in the semi-final and bagged bronze to become the only Indian pugilist to secure a podium finish at Tokyo 2020.
Still just 23 years of age, Lovlina has time on her side and plenty more to offer. She’s not looked back since her Commonwealth Games 2018 breakthrough and gone from strength to strength, earning two consecutive World Championships bronze medals in 2018 and 2019.
Her Tokyo 2020 bronze though sets her up nicely for the future. Not one to be fazed by setbacks and adversity as her emergence from a remote village in Assam demonstrates, the Olympic bronze will only stroke the fire in her belly to scale grander heights.
While she’s already overcome a lot in her journey so far, the sky remains the limit for Indian boxing’s latest star. Already an Olympic medallist and an Arjuna Award recipient for boxing, Lovlina’s likely to get better with age and likelier to turn that Olympic bronze into silver or even gold before hanging up her gloves.
Author: Ritu Sejwal
Featured Photo: BFI