"Welcome to the club," said the trailblazers of Indian boxing Vijender Singh and MC Mary Kom as they celebrated Lovlina Borgohain being assured of an Olympic medal in the Tokyo Games on Friday.
While Vijender was the first Indian male boxer to win an Olympic medal in 2008, Mary Kom became the first woman to finish on the podium in the 2012 London edition. Both had won bronze medals and they are hoping that Borgohain would be better than in Tokyo. "Welcome to the club," the 35-year-old Vijender said when PTI contacted him for his thoughts on Borgohain's win in the quarterfinals in Tokyo.
Borgohain defeated former world champion Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei 4-1 to make the last-four stage where she will face reigning world champion Busenaz Surmeneli of Turkey.
"We had been waiting for this medal, everyone had worked so hard. I am very happy for her," said Mary Kom from Tokyo, left heartbroken only the day before when she lost to Colombian Ingrit Valencia in the pre-quarters despite winning two of the three rounds during the bout.
Vijender was particularly impressed with Borgohain's tactics, which reminded him of his own campaigns in the amateur circuit. "What a fabulous fight. Her tactics were brilliant. She used her right hand so effectively, which reminded me of my own days in the amateur circuit. God bless her," said the 35-year-old. "She has a tough one in the next round but with that temperament, she can definitely go far," he added.
Mary Kom shared the sentiment. "She has always been this understated girl. It is a medal worth celebrating," she said.
Boxing Federation of India (BFI) president Ajay Singh pointed out her struggles and said they have been waiting for this moment while calling her a "born fighter".
"It's news that we all were eagerly waiting to hear. This is a proud moment not just for boxing but also for Assam and for the entire country. It was a very courageous effort by Lovlina, indeed."
She was down with COVID last year and was admitted to the hospital. Her mother too was going through a life-threatening ailment. But Lovlina is a born fighter. This is a huge milestone for Indian boxing and the way this young girl has proved herself makes us all proud.
The youngster, who was laid low by COVID-19 last year and missed a training trip to Europe because of it, let out a huge scream after the referee raised her hand, pent-up emotions finally getting the better of her.
Singh added, "We at BFI would like to congratulate her on this achievement. This is also a testament to the process that we followed in the last four years. However, as I said to Lovlina today, this is just a start. She needs to plan carefully and ensure she wins gold for India. Lovlina is symbolic of a young, new and fearless India. I am sure that young boxers like her will ensure many more Olympic medals in the future."