By Navneet Singh
New Delhi, Feb 28 : The week-long Boxam International Tournament in Castellon, Spain, starting Monday will enable the Indian boxing think-tank to evaluate the preparations for the Olympic-bound team, chief women’s boxing coach Raffaele Bergamasco said on Sunday.
Six-time world champion M.C. Mary Kom (51kg) is among the nine Olympic qualifiers who will be seen in action in the first international tournament of the season being held after about 12 months, as sporting activities were stopped due to the Covid-19 pandemic. An Indian team had last participated in Asian/Oceanian Olympic qualifier in in Jordan in March last year.
“We will be closely monitoring the technical and physical aspects of each of the boxers in the team. We have been working on various details of building up necessary strength in the boxers to prepare for the major tournament of the year in July,” Bergamasco told IANS, referring to the Olympics.
Punjab’s Simranjit Kaur (60kg), Lovlina Borgohain (69kg) of Assam and Pooja Rani (75kg) of Haryana are the other Olympic-bound pugilists among the 14-member team that will compete in the Spain event from March 1 to 7. The team consists of eight men and six women, including nine Olympic qualifiers.
“These days our main focus during training is to improve footwork, strength, and reflex action apart from other technical aspects of ring craft. Small improvements in these departments will give us the huge edge needed to win a medal in the Olympics,” said 50-year-old Bergamasco from Italy.
No Indian has qualified in the women’s 57kg category for the Olympics. The chances of booking more berths look difficult as the Paris Olympic qualifier, scheduled to be held in June, was cancelled recently due to the pandemic.
Nonetheless, the Boxing Federation of India (BFI) has selected Asian bronze medallist Manisha Moun and promising junior boxer Jasmine in the 57kg weight category for the international exposure tour to Spain.
In the coming months, Bergamasco said, the leading boxers would compete in two or three international tournaments to build up for the main competition at the Olympics. “Since the world’s leading boxers are expected to compete in Spain, we are looking forward to a good exposure. It would be a good platform to evaluate the general performance of the team and accordingly fine-tune the training in the coming weeks for the Olympics,” said the Italian.
Bergamasco said there is no injury concern at the moment. According to the coach, injuries do happen in all combat sports, but having a good team of medical experts and physiotherapists keeps the athletes healthy. “Physios are working closely with the boxers to ensure good health,” he pointed out.
Apart from the six-member women’s team, the BFI has selected an eight-member men’s team, including five Olympic quota winners, for international exposure.