"Better to increase weight for Paris Olympics": Lovlina's coach suggests after changes in boxing categories
With Tokyo bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain's usual weight class axed from the Paris Olympics, a lot needs to be weighed before the boxer makes a shift, according to her long-time coach Sandhya Gurung.
Becoming the first Olympic medallist from Assam and the lone Indian boxer to end up on the podium at Tokyo last year, Lovlina Borgohain is at crossroads after the IOC has done away with her usual 69kg welterweight class, leaving her options to either switch it up or step down the weight ladder for the 2024 Paris Olympics.
Having tasted international success in the 69kg weight category solely - with two bronze medals from the World Championships (2018,2019), the Asian Championships (2017, 2021) and the all-important Tokyo 2020 bronze, Lovlina will need to weigh a lot of things before choosing her new weight category for Paris.
Speaking to The Bridge while rain poured down heavily in Gangtok, Sikkim, Lovlina Borgohain's long-time coach Sandhya Gurung said, "I haven't spoken to Lovlina about this yet as our focus remains on the World Championships and Asian Games where she is still going to compete in her natural weight class, but a decision will have to be taken soon," she says.
The IOC, in a bid to promote gender equality in boxing, has increased the number of weight classes to six for women as compared to five at the previous edition of the Games. Shuffling around the weight categories, the IOC has done away with the welterweight 69kg category which was Lovlina's forte, leaving her with the choice to either go down to 66kg or jump up to 75kg - both drastic calls to be taken.
"Lovlina will have to build more strength to go up to 75kg. It's good that she has the height, it will be an advantage for her," Sandhya reasoned. "Reducing the weight also has its drawbacks - she won't have the energy then, it'll be a tricky choice but we will have more clarity only after Asian Games," the Dronacharya awardee coach mentioned, emphasising that going up the weight class may be the wise call to take here.
In any case, the choice will have to be taken calculatingly, Sandhya feels. "She isn't a child any more of 19-20 who can change weights easily, she is 24 now...plus, she has become a star too now, all eyes are on her - ultimately it will be her decision that will matter...we can only suggest," Sandhya, with a smile, relayed.
More challenges for Lovlina to ace
For boxers, shifting weight classes isn't an uncommon sight. Even veteran pugilist Mary Kom had gone up to the 51kg flyweight category from her usual 46kg and 48kg routine classes and had medalled with a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.
"Mary Kom's shift wasn't drastic, so it was alright," Sandhya clarified. "For Lovlina, whether she comes down to 66kg or goes up to 75 kg, the changes are going to be a lot."
With Lovlina's category axed from the Paris Olympics now, this brings more topics to light as going up the weight ladder would also mean fresh competition to conquer. Already Tokyo quarterfinalist Pooja Rani, Sanamacha Chanu, Saweety Boora and Rudrika command quite the stronghold in the 75kg category which Lovlina will have to be wary of to nurture her dreams of bettering her medal colour in Paris.
"According to me, 75kg will be okay for her but a lot of hard work will have to be done. Her whole training pattern will change and it will have to be seen if her body, which is around 70 kg now is being able to adapt to the new weight classes," Sandhya explained.
"There will be more competition too but that is welcome only," she mentioned, excited about the year ahead that will see Lovlina still competing in the 69kg category at the World Championships in May and the Asian Games in September.
The selections for the Commonwealth Games are yet to take place but over there also, Lovlina will be contesting in her natural weight category, buying her some more time to ponder over the which-weight-class-to-shift-to question.
Soon to be reunited with her star pupil later this month as preparations will get underway in a more full-fledged way for the tournaments ahead, Sandhya Gurung has decided to leave this pressing choice to be made by her Olympic medallist pupil herself.
"Only she can take this decision, she knows what will be the best for her, we will see after Asian Games," Sandhya, mentioned with a chuckle, before signing off.