"I was influenced by militants to move towards insurgency and transported weapons for them, but sports changed me and motivated me to work for the glory of my country," champion boxer Laishram Sarita Devi said on Tuesday.
Speaking at the ongoing Y20 summit, Devi recollected the horror of insurgency during its peak in early 90s in her home state Manipur and said only sports saved her from becoming an insurgent.
"I lived in a small village and I used to see the militants everyday when I was 12-13 years. At home, around 50 insurgents visited daily. I used to see their guns and wanted to be like them. I moved towards insurgency," she added.
The former world lightweight boxing champion confessed that she used to transport weapons from one place to another for the insurgents and she got influenced by the underground extremists.
"I dreamt of becoming like them and I loved playing with guns. I had no idea what to do with sports and did not even know that sports could bring name and fame to me as well as my country. I survived insurgency through sports," she added.
Then one day, Devi's brother beat her up for aiming to become an insurgent and that incident changed her life afterwards, the pugilist said.
"I took up sports and then represented India for the first time in 2001 at the Asian Boxing Championships in Bangkok and won a silver medal. I saw China receiving the gold medal, their National Anthem was played and everyone paid respect to it. That is the moment, when I got emotional," she added.
Devi then determined to bring glory to India by winning the gold, ensuring playing of the Indian National Anthem at the award ceremony.
"After that, I worked hard and played a number of games from 2001 to 2020 winning a number of medals. I continued to play for my country. Sports changed me. I want to see the same change with the youths of my country," she added.
She advocated making sports compulsory for youths in schools as it has a positive impact on health.
Talking about drug abuse, Devi said, "Nowadays, children are taking drugs and it is a big problem in my state. They can be changed by sports. These children can also bring glory to the nation with the help of sports."
Appealing to sports authorities to motivate the youths to join sports, the boxer pointed out that many young lives have been lost due to the drug menace in Manipur as well as other states of India.