A diamond in need of more polish - Will boxer Jaismine punch above her weight at 2022 CWG?
Hailing from India's 'Mini Cuba' – Bhiwani, Commonwealth Games-bound boxer Jaismine Lamboria owes her rise to the efforts of her National Champion uncles - Sandeep and Parvinder, who push her to shine.
In Haryana's Bhiwani, once known only for its ample temples, a fresh christening has taken place with it now being hailed as the 'Mini Cuba of India'. The reason behind it is anybody's guess - what with the no-nonsense boxing coach Jagdish Singh causing a revolution when he put everything at stake and set up the Bhiwani Boxing Club.
And voila, this club was enough to ensure a watershed moment in the history of Indian boxing as it went on to consistently produce Olympians, and World Championship medallists and gifted the country with its first Olympic medallist boxer in Vijender Singh.
Treading in the footsteps of such a rich legacy is also the young boxer Jaismine Lamboria, who secured her maiden ticket to the 2022 Commonwealth Games, by winning a one-sided affair against World Championship bronze medalist Parveen Hooda in the women's 60kg category by a 6-1 split decision at the Boxing Trials in New Delhi.
Jaismine comes from a family of boxing heritage where almost all her family members - from her grandfather to her uncles have played the sport at competitive levels.
But it was only when Jaismine was all of 14, that she expressed her desire to get into boxing, recalled her uncle Parvinder Singh while talking to The Bridge, hours after the youngster sealed her spot on the Commonwealth Games squad.
Firstly, convincing their family head - Jaismine's grandfather, was tough as he was yet to accept the changing times.
"Ladki? Boxing khelegi?" - the question marks and raised eyebrows were easier to come than an easy approval.
However, the medals of Sakshi Malik and PV Sindhu at the 2016 Rio Olympics, helped Jaisimine's grandfather to give a final nod.
Since then, there has been no looking back for the young Jaismine. With her father stuck in his job as a home guard, her uncles - Sandeep Singh and Parvinder Singh took charge of her boxing career.
Parvinder, who has represented India at the Commonwealth Games, stepped up to take care of Jaismine's techniques and agility, while Sandeep drove the youngster around for different tournaments. The two were quite convinced their niece would make it big someday.
Jaismine had started well in the recent World Championships, winning the first two rounds before losing to the eventual champion Rashida Ellis in the quarterfinals.
Talking about her World Championships campaign, Jaismine said, "After losing in the quarterfinals I was sad but had massive learnings. Earlier I used to play a similar defensive game but now I have started to put more power in the punches and get more aggressive while attacking."
Reflecting on the impact of her family and uncles on her boxing Jaismine says, "I told my mother about my desire to box. She told my uncles and that was the start. They took care of everything from my diet to training to tournaments."
A tough road
The journey hasn't been all-smooth for Jaismine. She contracted COVID-19 last year before Asian Championships in April. It was a tough road to recovery as her haemoglobin levels plummeted, she gained weight and couldn't train for six months.
But one year later, she feels perfectly fit and is raring to go.
Jaismine defeated Parveen Hooda, who won the bronze medal in the recently concluded World Championships on Saturday in the trials.
It is fair to say it was a one-sided affair. With similar heights and demeanour, both the boxers were equally poised to win. But it was the change of approach from Jaismine, with her landing the punches with greater force and attacking sideways more, that did the trick of getting the match in her favour, convincingly.
When asked about what Jaismine can improve, Parvinder, once one of India's top boxers in the 75kg, states, "She has reached a place where she can compete at the highest level. She is a diamond, all we need to do is keep pushing her to shine more brightly."
"CWG berth is the stepping stone for the bigger journey," exclaims Parvinder.
In fact, during the bout, both Sandeep and he were hoarsely cheering their diamond on, so much so that their cheers could even be heard on the other side of the hall.
With CWG in sight, a smarter and more aggressive Jaismine is tipped to bring glory to India as she is known to punch above her weight as she did against Olympian Simranjit Kaur in the selection trials of the IBA World Championships.
An ever-smiling and shy Jaismine who transforms into a feisty warrior inside the ring will have the whole of India join her uncles in loud cheers during the CWG in Birmingham, one hopes now.