“Bias was visible in Games”

“If you have noticed, the first round was a clear 5-0 in my favour but the judges gave it 3-2 in Li Qian’s favour. In the second round too, the referee was clearly disturbing me and eventually penalized me for holding,” said Lovlina.

“Bias was visible in Games”

An Olympic bronze, three World championships medals, including a gold and two bronze, and an Asian Games silver – what more can an athlete ask for, especially for someone who punched out age-old patriarchy to put a remote Baromukhia village in upper Assam’s Golaghat district on the global boxing map. But for Lovlina Borgohain, the “best” is yet to come. Having rightfully earned her place in the 2024 Paris Olympics, the lanky pugilist has set her ultimate goal on winning the gold in the quadrennial showpiece event next summer. In a freewheeling chat with Tridib Baparnash, the 25- year-old opens up on her takeaways from Hangzhou, in which India returned with an unprecedented tally of 107 medals, but was marred by umpiring/refereeing howlers, especially in events where Chinese athletes were in the finals. While Lovlina was controversially penalized for holding in the final against China’s Li Qian, India’s track and field athletes also faced similar bias during the men’s javelin and women’s 100m hurdles competitions.


Q: This was you first loss after switching over to the 75kg weight category, last year. In the past one year, you have seen the highs (starting with gold at Gujarat National Games and then the World Championships in New Delhi), what was your learning from the first loss?

A:Yeah, it was my first loss in the 75kg, but even then I’m happy with the silver medal, as the main target was to qualify for the Paris Games. In the final, I was pitted against China’s Li Qian, who was a crowd favourite. She had the home advantage on her side, although I don’t want to make it an excuse for my loss. Having the support of the crowd by your side makes a real difference in boxing. I played with an open mind, gave my 100 per cent, and didn’t bother about the outcome.


Q: Do you feel there was a bias for home athletes during the Asian Games? We had seen that in the track and field events too, and during the women’s 75kg final, you were penalized for holding during the second round?

A: You can say so. If you have noticed, the first round was a clear 5-0 in my favour but the judges gave it 3-2 in Li Qian’s favour. In the second round too, the referee was clearly disturbing me and eventually penalized me for holding. So one hindsight, yes it (biases towards Chinese athletes) was there but it was a good learning curve for me. I think (the loss) was important for me as I got to learn a lot from it. Extracting the positives from your losses is important, and this is something I have taken from Hangzhou.

Q: The 37th National Games in Goa starts in the next two weeks. Are you planning to take part in it?

A: I haven’t decided on it (participating in the National Games) as yet, there is a very small window. The idea was to earn the Olympic quota, and I got that. It’s been hectic, with frequent flights, and I reached Assam today. Also there are no camps now to prepare for the National Games. Plus, the body is still stiff and needs rest. There are also plans of spending some time with family back home, and later accompanying my parents to Mathura and Vrindavan.

Q: You have seen the highs and lows in such a brief period, right from the high of the 2019 world championship bronze to the Tokyo Olympics bronze, to the lull at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022. Has stardom affected you at some point in your career?

A: I don’t consider myself a star. I am the same person I used to be earlier. I always try to maintain a low profile, and instead try to focus on the job at hand. And the outcome is just a reflection of how dedicated you are to that job. The day I started boxing, my target was to win an Olympic medal. I achieved my first milestone in Tokyo. Now the dream is to become an Olympic champion and becoming a world champion is the first step in that direction.

Q: How do you motivate yourself when your back is against the wall? The 2022 Birmingham episode was one such phase of your career, but you bounced back like a true champion and did not look back.

A: It takes time to get good results, because there are so many external factors affecting our lives and boxing. I won a medal at the Olympics but lost in CWG. And people started criticising me like I am no one. That phase of failure taught me a lot. If I hadn’t lost at those two championships, I wouldn’t have become a world champion. That failure taught me a lot.

Q: How do you switch off from the noise on social media?

A: It’s not important what others feel or speak about me, I know what I am doing. I can be my best judge, it’s totally on us how we deal with our issues. Life is all about ups and downs, and every challenge teaches us a lesson, but we need to take those in our stride and try to emerge stronger. Social media is a part of our everyday lives, and I’m also a part of it. But during competitions, I distance myself totally from the noise, as whatever is spoken or written, good or bad, it definitely impacts you.

Q: Where do you see yourself once you decide to hang up your boots (gloves)? Coach?

A: I don’t think a good player can also turn out to be a good coach. But that’s a personal opinion, and it isn’t the case with everyone. I don’t think if I coach someone, he or she will go on to become a great boxer. Whatever I have done or achieved so far in my career, it’s my skills and hard work. Being a player, I won’t be the best judge of the youngster’s mental strength or the circumstances in which he/she has taken up the sport because at the end of the day, I will always try to compare myself with others. Thus, I feel I won’t be a good coach but could be a good mentor. I understand players’ concerns, I have been a part of the set-up, and can help the player sort out issues in the long run.

Q: Tell us about the Lovlina Borgohain Foundation, how is it going?

A: Initially, we have started by including around 1,000 athletes from various sporting disciplines, and raising awareness on sensitive issues, including doping. It is very necessary to guide our youngsters against the use of non-prescribed drugs that might jeopardise their careers.