Forget garlands and red carpet welcomes; World Championship medalist boxer Sonia Lather wasn't even provided transport from the airport
The Indian Premier League was the country's national past time and maintained an iron grip on our nation's sporting landscape in the last one month. While the players got sponsorships and handsome cash rewards, somewhere we have let down another athlete of ours yet again.
Foreign players coming to India and getting more fame than our athletes.
Is that the reality? Yes.
Is that fair? No.
Very few people have heard of Indian boxer Sonia Lather. Sadly, Sonia's achievement has been no less than the Warners, Bravos, and Mustafizurs.
She has returned from Kazakhstan after participating in the recently-concluded 2016 AIBA World Boxing Championships. Add to that, the fact that the Haryanvi pugilist has got us a medal in a competition where the best boxers of India, Mary Kom, and Sarita Devi failed to qualify for the Rio Games.
She made it big but did not get her due credit
Clinching a medal at the World Championships, the 8-time national gold medallist landed at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, Delhi.
Unlike how our cricketers are treated after winning an overseas tour, there were no flower garlands, no red carpet, and no one to greet her.
Hours after giving us a medal, she was not provided conveyance to reach home. Neither was the silver medalist given the respect, she deserves.
She had to wait for her own transport at the airport, all alone.
Besides the happiness of winning a silver medal for India after six years, the disappointment of not getting her share was visible in Sonia's words. The last time India won a gold in the World Championship was way back in 2010 when Mary Kom claimed gold in the 48-kg category.
And she has every right to get disheartened considering how gigantic her achievements where.
Speaking exclusively to Sportskeeda, the boxer who hails from Jind says, "I won a medal for India in boxing but was hardly acknowledged on my return."
While IPL stars were treated like royalty from April till last week, Sonia excelled on the world sports stage. But she was undisturbed at the airport, unlike our cricketers who are mobbed by people after similar achievements.
"It is not a new story that in spite of bringing laurels to India, our athletes are not recognized for their achievements," adds the 23-year-old who earned a silver medal after losing the summit clash to Italian Alessia Mesiano.
But that doesn't deter Sonia from doing what she does best. "I am preparing for my next target now, which is the 2018 Commonwealth Games."
When asked what she feels the government should do, Sonia promptly replies, "To form a federation at the earliest."
Gone are those days and gone is that glory of our boxers
One doesn't need to be a boxing fanatic to know that the game's administration is in a mess. Indeed, it has been in a mess for quite some time. In London, we had eight boxers in the entire Indian contingent. This year we have one.
There is no Boxing Federation in our country. Boxing India was suspended back on December 6, 2012, because of lack of transparency in its selection process. Since then, AIBA has not recognised any activities of its Indian counterpart.
Sonia, who competes in the 57-kg category says, "We put our blood and sweat in making the country proud at international platforms, but the government forgot we don't have any federation since the past three years."
As a result, our pugilists are forced to compete in international events under the white flag of the International Boxing Association and not their national tri-colour.
"In the absence of a recognised federation, we are standing on the podium with the white flag. This is the biggest insult for someone representing the country," adds the admirer of Pinky Jangra.
The 2012 Asian Championship silver medallist goes on to say, "We can only pray for the federation to form soon so that our boxers do not suffer anymore."
A victim of unfair selection trials for the Olympics
We all dream of something or the other as a child. But only a few succeed to achieve their dreams.
Sonia Lather is one such person who has given away her mind, soul and kabaddi to achieve her dream of becoming one of India's best boxer.
And yes, she has succeeded in her achievements.
She says, "I used to be a kabaddi player till I was in school. Only when I turned 18, I decided to switch to boxing after watching Vijender Singh and Mary Kom in the Olympic Games."
The 2014 bronze medalist in the 3-Nations Cup has not looked back since then. However, as things stand, the section policy and domestic lobbying are some of the factors that have proved detrimental to this sport.
Sonia defeated reputed boxer Sarita Devi in the Olympics trial. Sadly, the Asian Games medalist represented India in the 60-kg category which is an Olympic category.
"I don't understand how the selection policy works in our country. Even after defeating Sarita Di, I was not allowed to compete in that category during the World Championships," she says.
Sonia gave the trial for 57 kg which is a non-Olympic category and brought home a medal. Sarita Devi competed in the 60-kg category which is an Olympic category and failed to qualify for the Games, after getting knocked out in the second round.
"I have made a lot of sacrifices to get here, and I won’t give up now. For the time being, I am focusing on the 2018 Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. But, my goal is to definitely win a medal at the Olympics one day, and I won’t give up until I do,” she signed off.
Sonia Lather has been battling aches, disappointments, blisters, and cramps to bring a smile on millions of faces. Isn't it time for us to pay her back?