The journey of the 8-time Asian Boxing Championship medallist Sarita Devi - What fuels her?
The Indian boxing scene has seen a lot of ups and downs in the past decade. We have seen the highs of Olympic medals for Mary Kom and Vijender Singh to multiple bans for the Indian boxing federation that left the sport’s future in the country in doubt.
The sport is riddled with controversial decisions as well. However, there are very few boxers who have voiced their opinion against the injustice meted out to them. One person who has never sat on the fence and always fought for what she feels is right is Laishram Sarita Devi.
The Manipuri boxer courted controversy in the 2014 Asian Games when she refused to accept her bronze medal owing to refereeing inconsistencies.
She was recently elected as a member of the first-ever International Boxing Association (AIBA)’s athletes’ commission. The 8-time Asian Boxing Championship medallist is the only Asian to be a part of this new body, formed to make boxing more transparent and a fairer sport.
We spoke to her about how she aims to improve boxing as a the AIBA athletes commission member, her boxing career, importance of fitness in the sport and how Fast&Up has helped her in her career:
You were recently elected as the only AIBA athletes commission member from Asia. What’s your vision and how can you use it to the benefit of Indian boxers?
It’s a new AIBA commission. The advantage is that we can convey athletes’ pain or problems to the AIBA. I will give it my all to ensure the athletes’ voices are heard and it is a more transparent process. So that’s my main motive – to work for the benefit of the athletes and hopefully, the new AIBA helps in achieving that.
Boxing is riddled with controversial decisions and lack of transparency. How can this be improved on, especially with the formation of the new AIBA?
There have already been a lot of changes already. For eg. Earlier the scores were revealed at the end, but now the scores are visible, so that’s a big positive. But, now that there will be athletes’ involvement in the decision-making process, we’ll focus more on ensuring more transparency and changes in the way things work. However, we need to understand the process will take time. But, the main priority is that the right decisions are given and the work is done for the boxers.
How can the new AIBA help in the upcoming Olympics in Tokyo?
Currently, India’s selection recently concluded. So, my focus was on that as a boxer and post that, I, as an administrator, will ensure the boxers’ needs are met and there’s no stone unturned in their preparation.
Your hopes for Indian boxing at the Olympics?
There has been a big improvement in boxing in India off late, especially with Ajay Singh becoming the President of Indian Boxing. Earlier, there were very few competitions (3-4). Now, we have many competitors and competitions so the boxers are always on their toes. There has been a marked improvement in the training facilities as well. The Big Bout League has also helped improve the standard of boxing in the country and ensured competition for places. I hope we bring in more medals than the previous editions.
What are your plans for the future?
I have my academy which is also a center of Khelo India, and I’ve been giving training to youngsters for the past 5 years. Alongside that, If the position of the national coach opens up, I would love to take that up.
Boxing is in my blood. In villages, there aren’t a lot of facilities as I, like others, struggled a lot to reach where I am. So, it is my duty to work for the development of the sport in my region and guide other youngsters. There are some very poor boxers, who struggle to even get food on their table, so it is my idea to help alleviate poverty through boxing.
You are now 37 years old, but still playing at the highest level. What’s your secret?
I train twice a day and keep a close eye on my food intake. If you train well, but don’t follow a proper diet, your body will not support your dream. People call boxers mad men for being willing to take shots to their body and it demands a lot from your body in terms of fitness. While, at the same time, you need to be mentally aware of the situation of the match, understand your opponent, while executing your own gameplan.
Hence, having a balance to both is critical to becoming a successful boxer. I ensure I treat my body like a temple through proper training and diet.
The only reason I’ve been able to play for 20 years is due to this. I’ve also been very lucky that despite being a mother I can focus on boxing. I am not able to spend time with my child due to my demanding schedule as that’s what the sport demands in order for me to make my country proud.
How has using Fast & Up products helped you in your fitness and overall abilities as a boxer?
The energy gel they have is quite efficient and different to the other products in the market. The energy gel freshens you up, especially on days where you need extra motivation to practice and get rid off laziness. My recovery time has decreased dramatically with the impact of this energy gel.
Earlier, I never used any nutritional supplements, but with the inclusion of Fast&Up in my diet, I’ve seen a marked difference in my overall game. As you grow older, as I have, your body’s recovery time increases. We require nearly double the time that a young boxer would to recover. Hence, incorporating Fast&Up has ensured that the recovery time is as was when I was younger.
Lastly, what are your hopes from Indian boxers at the Olympics?
I am quite confident the boxers will give a good showing at the Olympics. I’m sure we’ll be able to get medals at the ultimate stage and at least, perform better than we’ve done in previous editions.Published 31 Dec 2019, 13:42 IST