In March 2020, the city of Amman in Jordan was buzzing with excitement as it played host to the 2020 Asia & Oceania Boxing Olympic Qualification Tournament. With over 200 boxers keen to make a mark and book their flight to Tokyo, all eyes were on the Indian contingent led by MC Mary Kom and Amit Panghal.
The Indian boxers certainly impressed, with nine of them confirming their spot in the Tokyo Olympics. One of them was young 22-year-old boxer, Assam's Lovlina Borgohain.
With a unanimous 5-0 win over Uzbekistan's Maftunakhon Melieva in the quarterfinals of the 69kg category, Lovlina etched her name in the history books by becoming the first sportswoman from Assam to qualify for the quadrennial event.
"When I won the qualifying bout, it didn't seem too big. But after that I got many missed calls, actually there was no Wifi in the competition centre so I had to go to the hotel to call my parents. My father and mother were crying in joy, it felt good that after so much training, I had achieved a goal," Lovlina recalled in an exclusive chat with Sportskeeda.
And, despite losing her semifinal bout against China's Gu Hong by a 5-0 margin, Lovlina's optimistic approach meant that she was content with achieving half of her ultimate goal - to win a Olympic medal for India.
However, a few months later, the meteoric rise of coronavirus cases across the world forced the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics by a year, and it was announced that the global event would be held in 2021.
Lovlina Borgohain keen to make history at 2021 Tokyo Olympics
Now, close to four months since the announcement, Lovlina is enjoying the comforts of the time spent with her family but is focused on training hard for Tokyo Olympics 2021.
"I have a schedule given to me by the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) which I am following at home. When I heard the news first I was disappointed but now I have more time to train and it will help me prepare better for the Olympics. Now I have got a lot of time with family, I am also doing some agricultural work in my village" the young boxer said.
Lovlina's early years saw her find a liking for Martial Arts before she switched to boxing within a year, given that the latter was a 'recognised Olympic sport'. However, with no prior background in boxing, the youngster had little time to learn and claims that Indian legend MC Mary Kom played a big role in shaping her boxing career.
"When I started boxing, I didn't know anything about it, I just knew it was an Olympic recognised game. My height was good and I was physically fit, so I started boxing. MC Mary Kom is the first name that comes up when someone talks about boxing in India," she said.
Despite the fact that she is married and she has children, I saw that she was still doing well. She was a real inspiration and even now, I get very motivated watching her," Lovlina added.
One of the biggest turning points in Lovlina's career she claims is her association with sportswear brand giants, Adidas. One of the representatives of the 'Ready for Sports' campaign, Lovlina credited this association for continuously fuelling her desire to push for a medal at the world's biggest stage, the Olympics.
"It feels very good that such a big brand is supporting us. The One More campaign is giving me support and motivation. It is giving me a lot more backing in my dream to win a medal at the 2021 Olympics," she said.
With ample backing from the BFI during these tough months of forced lockdown, Lovlina is happy with her progress and the support she has received for her continuous training.
With a little less than a year to go before she crosses paths with some of the best boxers across the world at Tokyo 2021, Lovlina is confident of her training holding her in good stead ahead of the big event next year.
"Ever since I started boxing, the biggest dream I have pursued is to win an Olympic medal. I am working hard to become a champion. I can't say anything about what will happen later (At Tokyo Olympics 2021) but I will give my 100% and accept whatever result that comes my way," the talented boxer quipped.
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With loads of talent mixed with the right backing from the Federation and family working in Lovlina's way, 2021 could well be the year that Assam celebrates its first ever woman medalist at the Olympics.