Six Indian male boxers were forced out of the Strandja Memorial Tournament starting February 19 in Sofia, Bulgaria due to injuries as the sports ministry approved funding for the truncated team's participation in the marquee European circuit tournament. Govind (48kg), Ankit (51kg), Rajpinder Singh (54kg), Dalvir Singh (63.5kg), Rohit Tokas (71kg) and Gaurav Chauhan (92kg) were withdrawn from the tournament due to niggles sustained during training.
The Indian men's team's participation is now reduced to seven boxers and the squad is largely made up of national medal winners. The women's team has also been reduced to 10 after pullouts by bereaved Asian champion Pooja Rani (81kg) and Sonia Lather (57kg), who hasn't yet fully recovered from a niggle.
"The injuries happened during training and though some of them wanted to compete, it was in their best interest to recover fully as major assignments like the Commonwealth and Asian Games are lined up this year," said a source in the Boxing Federation of India. Meanwhile, the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said that the government will bear the cost of the team's participation in the event. "Five support staff from the women's team and four from the men's team have also been cleared to travel at cost to the Govt," the SAI stated in a release.
For the women's team, it would be handy exposure before the world championships in May this year. "Strandja is one of the oldest and toughest boxing tournaments. It is a development tournament for us before the Worlds and we hope to check those few things that we are expecting to witness from this competition," Bhatt was quoted as saying by SAI. "We are focused on three parameters – physical preparation, technical preparation and the ring craft.
Our boxers will be playing 4-5 days continuously and we will monitor how they perform in the rounds. "From a technical standpoint, we want to see where the boxers stand now and how we can make them better ahead of the upcoming tournaments. Similarly, we want to focus on the ring tactics and how the boxer is implementing what she is taught in the training," he added. India won two medals -- silver by Deepak Kumar and a bronze by Naveen Boora -- in the last edition of the Strandja tournament. The women boxers, however, could not finish on the podium. The Indian team is due to leave for Sofia on Friday early morning.
Mary Kom resumes training in Delhi
With the cold weather subsiding and the COVID-19 cases also on the decline, six-time world champion M C Mary Kom returned to Delhi a couple of days back from her home state Manipur to resume training here. She had shifted to Manipur last month due to the low temperatures and COVID-19 third wave in the city. Mary Kom is not a part of the team for the Strandja Memorial and is gearing up for next month's trials for the world championships.