World Boxing C'ships: Former Indian national champion returns to country as Australian team manager
Former national champion Satinder Kaur is back in India after 20 years as Australian Team manager.
New Delhi: Imagine having to quit the sport you love and move to a different country for a better life. Tough isn't it?
But living to tell a similar tale is a former Indian women's 63kg national boxing champion - Satinder Kaur. She is currently back at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium here after almost 20 years, but in a different role - as the Australian team manager.
Having landed in the country, Satinder has experienced major flashbacks over the past few days.
"It feels good coming back here. I have a lot of emotional attachments to India. I have a lot of memories. I used to attend national camps here in IG Stadium during my playing days. I am coming here after 20 years," an ecstatic Satinder tells The Bridge.
A national champion from 2004 and silver medalist in the 2003 nationals, Satinder Kaur represented Chandigarh in the national circuit before cutting her sporting career short and migrating to Australia.
"I moved to Australia because I got married," Kaur laughs.
"It still pinches me a lot that I could not represent India at the highest level and ended my career prematurely," she adds.
Back during Satinder's playing days, boxing was a sport hardly known to the Indian masses. It was at a very nascent stage.
Satinder trained under Dronacharya Awardee Shiv Singh, who has also coached Olympians like Vijender Singh, Akhil Kumar, and Simranjeet Kaur. Back then she used to be the only woman in the Chandigarh boxing center.
"I was the only female boxer at the boxing center in Chandigarh and I used to face quite a bit of problem in training. I did not have any training partners. I did not have any girls to spar with or train with. So, my coach trained me with boys," recalls Satinder.
A part of the national camps for the early 2000s, Satinder fondly remembers the time she used to train with a young Mary Kom.
"Yeah, Mary was part of the camp. She was in the 46 kg category back then. There was the dominance of Punjab and Haryana. Manipur was also good at that time. I had a team member named Bimcha. She was from Manipur. They were doing well at that time," she explains.
While Satinder migrated to Australia, Kom rose through the ranks to establish herself as one of the great woman pugilists of all time.
Despite being the national champion, Satinder never represented India at the international level and it still haunts her.
"I regret not representing India at the international level. I was a bit unlucky too. After my gold in the 2004 national championships, I was supposed to go to Poland for an international tournament but I could not go with my university exams clashing," she says.
Satinder believes that the regret of halting her boxing career prematurely is what brought her back to the sport.
"It is the regret of ending my career early which made me come back to boxing in a different role," she quips.
Satinder returned to the boxing ring after nearly 18 years when she was appointed as the assistant coach of the New South Wales boxing team last month and then of the Australian National Team.
Later, she was named the manager of the Australian boxing team traveling to India for the 2023 Women's World Boxing Championships.
Talking about boxing culture in Australia, Satinder says, "Boxing is tough in Australia as compared to other countries, especially India. Now in India, the athletes receive government funding and train throughout the year at centers across the country."
"In Australia, 15-16-year-old youngsters attend universities and schools doing odd jobs. They find their sponsors and go to fights on their own. It is a growing scene in Australia with more boxers taking up the sports and the government also getting into providing them a platform," she adds.
Boxing in India has evolved a lot from her playing days. A lot of incentives, rewards, and government support takes the centre stage now.
"I remember receiving INR. 1500 after winning the national championships in 2004 but now there is so much for the champions. I hope Indian girls take this opportunity up and keep shining," Satinder says.
Thanks to a hectic schedule with daily training and matches, Satinder hardly had any time to meet her family here but is happy reminiscing her glory days.
"It has been hectic. I have caught up with my former colleagues such as Amanpreet Kaur (Head Coach, Indian junior women's boxing coach) and Pramanika Borah (boxing coach). My parents came to see me here. It has been a good comeback," she smiles.
Satinder might have missed out on international glory in her playing days but her hunger and love for the sport drove her to make a comeback and live those moments again, although from the sidelines.