India's Olympic-bound boxers, except for an indisposed M C Mary Kom and two others, will travel to Italy and France starting next week on a 52-day training-cum-competition trip as they gear up for the Tokyo Games. Mary Kom is currently recovering from a bout of dengue and has ruled out travelling abroad at least this year due to the COVID-19 threat.
The Europe assignment starts on October 15. "I was not keeping well for the past two weeks because of dengue. I am much better now but won't be travelling," the six-time world champion and London Olympics bronze-medallist told PTI. "I will be based in Delhi and train here only. About travelling abroad for training, we shall see next year when hopefully a COVID-19 vaccine will also come," added the 38-year-old, set to make her second Olympic appearance.
In all, a 28-member contingent will travel, including 10 men and six women boxers along with the support staff. The exposure has been sanctioned by the government at an estimated cost of Rs 1.31 crore. Six of the nine Olympic-bound (five men and four women in total) are travelling for the assignment. They are -- Amit Panghal (52kg), Ashish Kumar (75kg), Satish Kumar (+91kg), Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) and Pooja Rani (75kg). Vikas Krishan (69kg), who is training in the USA and Manish Kaushik (63kg), recuperating from an injury, along with Mary Kom, are the ones missing from the Tokyo-bound list travelling for this assignment. The teams will be training at Assisi, Italy for a period of 52 days from October 15 to December 5.
Thirteen boxers from the contingent will also participate in the 'Alexis Vastine' International Tournament to be held in Nantes, France from October 28 to October 30. "All the four events (men's 57kg, 81kg, 91kg and women's 57kg) where India is yet to win a quota, will have boxers who will be a part of the travelling contingent," the Sports Authority of India (SAI) said in a statement. They will be accompanied by eight men's and four women's coaches and support staff. "It is very good that we will be getting a feeling of competition again. I am very excited about this. With 10 months to go before the Olympics, getting to compete against European opponents will be really helpful," said world bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain.
"When we meet new competitors, we will get an idea of our level. It will help us get a better idea of where we stand and what aspects we need to improve on," added Ashish Kumar. The boxers had been training inside a bio-bubble in the national camp in Patiala since August when lockdown restrictions were eased. They were, however, prohibited from engaging in sparring due to the health risk posed by the highly contagious virus. The World Olympic qualifying event scheduled for next year is the last event for Indian boxers to obtain quotas for the Tokyo Games. "At this time last year, we were at peak competition fitness, participating in the World Championships and were training intensely. Thank the government for sanctioning this," said national coach C A Kuttappa. "The boxers are very happy, they wanted to do something different, they need competition and training. They want to see where they stand compared to the European boxers. This overseas exposure will give a better idea of competition from Europe," he added.