“I remember how in the village they would often pity my parents, with no sons and three daughters. My mother would always tell us to do something to prove the critics wrong, and we did. Both my sisters have jobs in the Central Industrial Security Force and Border Security Force, and I am a boxer,” 23-year-old boxer Lovlina Borgohain told Indian Express after being honoured with the Arjuna Award last year.
Today, Lovlina—the first woman from Assam to qualify for the Olympics—has assured a medal for India at the world’s biggest sporting event in Tokyo.
Becoming the second Indian to win a medal at the Tokyo Olympics (after Mirabai Chanu), Lovlina ensured at least a bronze for herself by defeating Nien-Chin Chen of Chinese Taipei in the quarterfinals of the 69 kg women’s welterweight boxing.
Here’s the story of her inspiring journey from the small village of Bara Mukhia in Assam’s Golaghat district.
Lovlina was born to Mamoni and Tiken Borhohain, a small-time businessman. She was in Class 5 when her father showed her a newspaper clipping of the legendary Muhammad Ali.
That got her hooked to boxing, but she was first trained in Muay Thai, a form of kickboxing.
During boxing trials at her high school, her skills impressed Padum Boro (a coach from Guwahati), who asked if the talented young girl would like to go to Guwahati to train under the Sports Authority of India. She agreed and hasn’t looked back since.
Lovlina’s big break came in 2018 when she bagged bronze at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. This led to her being selected in the Indian women’s boxing team for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
But a disappointing loss at CWG 2018 made Lovlina retrospect and focus on building her psychological strength. The girl from Assam joined meditation classes while fine-tuning her counter-attack technique.
Her efforts paid off. In 2019, she won another bronze medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships. She also became World No. 3 in the 69 kg category.
All this helped her inch closer to her biggest dream, to represent India at the Tokyo Olympics.
She finally sealed her spot at the Olympics in early 2020, when she defeated Uzbekistan’s Maftunakhon Melieva in the quarterfinals of the Asian Olympic qualifiers.
“My father always wanted me to go to the Olympics, it’s a dream come true for him. When I called them, they all started crying. But I am not content with only an Olympic berth. I want to win gold,” Lovlina told Times of India after her qualification.
The fact that she will be returning with a medal from Tokyo means the world for the 2,000-odd residents of Baro Mukhia, Lovlina’s village.
This could mean the arrival of basic facilities such as a piped water supply and a concrete road to the village that is still connected with the rest of the world by a muddy track.
Baro Mukhia also depends on tube wells and ponds for its water supply, and the nearest hospital can be found in the district headquarters, 45 km away.
The hopeful villagers have witnessed the fate of the villages of Hima Das and Mary Kom change after their wins at the international level and perhaps await their own destiny.
(Feature image source: Instagram; Edited by Yoshita Rao)