The last fortnight has been pretty busy for the women boxers who brought glory by winning medals at the IBA World Women's Boxing Championships in Istanbul. Since their return to India, they have been occupied with media interactions and felicitation ceremonies. For bronze medal winner Manisha Moun, the most special moment was when she got a hug from her father upon her return to her village in Matour of Kaithal district in Haryana.
"He (Manisha's father) hugged me and I could see tears of joy rolling down his eyes. Papa ne kaha mein phir nahin kahunga ke boxing ladko ka khel hain
(He said he would never say that boxing is a men's sport)," recalls Manisha in an exclusive with
. Like most Indian homes with humble backgrounds, Manisha's father, who was a tractor mechanic, was against his daughter taking up boxing. But Manisha refused to be bogged down by his father's denial and continued pursuing it secretly. In 2013, when she won the silver medal at the State championship and photos started appearing in local newspapers, her father knew the truth and started supporting her. The Bridge
Manisha's journey to the 2022 World Championships has not been like a bed of roses. She returned to international action only in 2022 after surgery for an elbow injury she sustained in 2019. She went on to win the Thailand Open in April, then came selection in the Indian contingent for the now-postponed Asian Games through trials. "I came back three months after my surgery. My rehabilitation went at the Inspire Institute of Sport where I was made competition ready in just 6 months. I know there's a lot of scope for improvement which I will be looking forward to in the coming days," responds Manisha.
The 24-year-old pugilist had, however, set her standards high before the Worlds. She says, "I just had two months of proper preparation before going into the World Championships. Our coach Bhaskar Bhatt Sir worked a lot on me and the training I went through, bolstered my confidence and I was upbeat to show my prowess back again."
In the all-important quarterfinals, Manisha took on Namuun Monkhor where she punched above her weight over the Columbians, who had the entire audience, "In the quarters, I could hear in the background the ear-deafening chant for the Columbian. I couldn't even hear what my coaches were asking me to do. I simply stay focused with my eye on medals. And that helped me to bag the bronze," says Manisha.
Despite all the happiness she has been bestowed with since her medal-winning performance at the Worlds, Manisha seems a bit disappointed that she will not get the chance to represent the country at the Commonwealth Games this July. The Boxing Federation of India has not sent an entry in Manisha's weight category - 57kg in the CWG. The BFI has chosen four weight categories — 48kg, 50kg, 60kg and 70kg — the trials for which will be held from June 9-11.
The federation based its decision on the medal-winning probabilities of the country's women boxers in these categories. She adds, "When I won the bronze medal at the World Championships, I was pretty optimistic about my chances to represent India at CWG and winning a medal. But I didn't know it would be disappointing because BFI had sent its entries earlier and I completely respect their decision."
With no competitions in sight, the pugilist would be waiting for the Nationals tournament in November and the now-postponed Asian Games 2022.
When asked about her reception following her glory-laden feat, Manisha shares that her village Matour is planning a grand reception for her. But what actually inspires her is her motivation to seek bigger dreams after all she has been able to inspire a generation of young women in her village to take up sports. "Before me, there were no women from my village who would have thought to take up sports professionally. But after I slowly started getting recognised, I saw girls from my village developing interests in sports. Many of them have joined either boxing or wrestling in the last few years. I see girls playing on the field. It gives me immense satisfaction," adds Manisha.
A self-admitted tea addict shared that her success became even more special when India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi called the three World Championships medallist boxer — Manisha, Nikhat Zareen and Parveen to his office. "I never expected that Modi Ji would call us to felicitate. There's a tea connection between him and I, which I told him. It was also a dream come true clicking a selfie with our PM," she quips.
The southpaw who has a job with Indo-Tibetan Border Police, concludes that she will soon be heading back to training after some rest at home. And this time, she says she will be eyeing a gold medal at the Asiad.