India aim gold rush at first youth boxing world C'ship at home
Guwahati, Nov 18 (PTI) Home advantage will be just one of their strengths when India seek to claim their first gold medal since 2011 but an intimidating field stands in the way at the 5th World Women's Youth Boxing Championship starting here tomorrow.
A 10-strong team is pumped up and ready to emulate a certain Sarjubala Devi, the lone Indian to grab a gold at the premier age-group event of the International Boxing Association (AIBA).
Sarjubala Devi, now a regular in the senior camp, had claimed the gold in the 2011 edition in Turkey. The best after that for India was former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen, also a senior camper now, grabbing a silver in 2013.
"In my view, this is one of the most competitive in the youth category. The high number of participants and the athletes boxing quality has grown a lot, as compared to the male competition," India's Italian coach Raffaele Bergamasco told PTI on the eve of the competition.
"The opponents to be feared will certainly be China, Russia, Kazakhstan, but also France, England, and Ukraine. I'm optimistic because I think our athletes will do their utmost to reach the highest podium," he added.
India's performance in the last edition of the event was not great, to say the least, with just one bronze to show for.
However, hopes are high this time given the excitement of hosting the event for the first time. The tournament is, in fact, the first AIBA world championship being held in the country since 2006, when India hosted the marquee event for senior women boxers.
Among the top medal contenders will be world junior championships silver-medallist Niharika Gonella (75kg) and Balkan Youth International Boxing Championship gold-medallists Shashi Chopra (57kg) and Sakshi (54kg).
Not to forget, local favourite Ankushita Boro (64kg), who claimed silver medals at the Balkan Youth International Boxing Championship and the prestigious International Ahmet Comert Boxing Tournament.
Also in contention would be Jyoti (51kg), who clinched a gold medal at the 6th Golden Glove Boxing Tournament in Serbia.
Russia had dominated the competition the last time around walking away with four gold and a silver medal to claim the top honours in the team championships