With the season-opening assignment in Serbia just five days away, India's women boxers are sweating it out in two shifts in the ongoing national camp, reinvigorated by a brand new coaching and support staff headed by the long-serving former men's coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu.
With a team of 16 coaches to assist the 70 boxers training at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium, women boxers have unanimously given a thumbs up to the change that has taken place.
The coaching staff was revamped by the Boxing Federation of India, which took charge of the sport in September 2016, ending four years of administrative bedlam.
For the tournament in Serbia which starts January 9, only the national champions have been picked in a bid to incentivise participation in the National Championships, which had suffered in the past owing to dwindling participation of the established stars.
"It's been a fantastic experience to participate in the camp so far. There is increased focus on strength training and we are being constantly monitored for what we are doing right or where we are going wrong. There is greater stress on putting a system in place," former junior world champion Nikhat Zareen, who won a bronze medal at the Nationals, told PTI.
Sandhu was in charge of men's boxing for over two decades before being shifted to the women's camp and has with him a team of 7 men and 8 women to run the camp.
The veteran, who is a Dronacharya awardee, is handling a women's camp for the first time and said he has adjusted well to the change.
"We are doing tests and measurements to assess the boxers and that will prove to be crucial in getting the best out of them. I am focussed on putting a strong system in place," Sandhu said.
The assistant coaches in the team include accomplished names such as Dronacharya awardees Jagdish Singh and Jaydev Bisht, India's first Commonwealth Games silver-medallist Mohd Ali Qamar, former World silver medallist N Usha, and Asian quarterfinalist and multiple-time national champion Chhote Lal Yadav among others.
An average day starts at 6:30 in the morning for the girls, who undergo training and physical conditioning for close to three hours in the first shift. They reassemble for another round of training in the afternoon session. In addition to this, individual training is handed out to the girls twice in a week and they also undergo lectures on technical rules.
"Earlier, there used to be just one programme and we would work on it through the year but now, there is diverse approach and we are experimenting in our training. Like, there is emphasis on strength right now before we eventually move to competitive training ahead of tournaments," said a boxer, requesting anonymity.
Three rings in place to handle the load of 70 campers and the boxers are also quite pleased with the increased coaching staff which is ensuring better attention to all.
"It is a pleasant change for us, there is equal focus on all the girls and that is helping us stay motivated. In fact, there are motivational lectures twice a week which is quite good," said another boxer, who did not wish to be named.
The team for Serbia will leave on the night of January 8.