How Sakshi, Sindhu’s Olympic medals helped Jaismine convince grandfather that she must box

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A bronze in the repechage for wrestler Sakshi Malik and silver for shuttler PV Sindhu saved India the blushes at the Rio Olympics six years ago. Boxer Jaismine Lamboria is also thankful to them for reducing the bias against women in sport. Jaismine is from Bhiwani, known as the country’s ‘mini Cuba’ because of its boxing clubs. Yet, it took a lot of convincing for her grandfather Chandraban, an army man and a wrestler with the final word in the family, to allow Jaismine to take up boxing. Both her uncles were boxers but age-old notions of patriarchy remained within the family.

Minutes after Jaismine got the better of World Championship bronze medalist Parveen Hooda in the 60kg category to book a Commonwealth Games berth, her uncle Sandeep recalled how the two medals in Rio brought about a change of heart in Bhiwani.

“I told him we have to move with the times. Women are bringing glory to the country. We have to allow our girls to step into a boxing ring. Those medals in Rio made a difference. Jasmine is the first girl from our family to take up a sport,” Sandeep, a former youth champion pugilist, said.

READ |Knee buckles on Mary Kom’s farewell competition plans at CWG trials, five months shy of 40

Sandeep and his older brother Parvinder, a 2006 Commonwealth Games boxer, groomed Jasimine once the go-ahead was given. They went all-out and launched their own boxing academy called Lamboria in Bhiwani where Jaismine was enrolled in the first batch. At the Commonwealth Games trials at the IG Stadium, Jasimine’s uncles were understandably the most vocal during her bouts. The medals displayed in the family’s trophy cabinet, and the snatches of conversation she heard between Sandeep and Parvinder about their days in the ring, piqued her interest in boxing. When Mary Kom won the historic bronze at the London Olympics, Jaismine was hooked.

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“As I am from Bhiwani, I always heard stories about Vijender Singh and then there was Mary Kom’s medal. Before that, because my uncles were into boxing, I had watched video clips of them in bouts. There was so much boxing talk around me when I was growing up. I guess I had to become a boxer only,” Jaismine said.

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Her father Jaiveer is a home guard, her mother Joginder a housewife, one older sister is a physiotherapist and the other is still studying. “When I was in Class X, I told my mother about my interest in boxing. She told me she would tell my uncles,” Jaismine said.

Sandeep remembers asking Jaismine back then if she was serious about boxing. “She was very shy, but on that day she sounded determined. I told her and her mother that I would get her into boxing,” Sandeep recounted.

Just a week into training and Jaismine was thrown in at the deep end. There was another boxer Sandeep had coached for over a year. He pitted the two against each other. Jasmine was a clear winner. “She beat up the other boxer. I knew we had a special talent because she was a natural. We only needed to guide her well,” Sandeep said.

Reach and talent

Jaismine missed out on a medal at last month’s World Boxing Championships where her opponent in the final of the CWG trials, Parveen Hooda, bagged a bronze in 63kg. Saturday’s 60kg contest between the two evenly matched boxers was a busy affair. Both have a good reach and are equally tall at 5ft 9in. Jaismine was smarting from returning without a medal from the Worlds in Turkey. She also made a crucial change — made sure her blows landed with greater force instead of producing light punches and taking a full step back immediately. Chief national coach Bhaskar Bhatt said the change in strategy paid off.

“Today, Jaismine was at her best. The way she swayed, and landed side punches had been heartening. Technically Jaismine was much stronger today. Earlier her punches were not being ‘released’ fully even though she had the power. The punch needs to have an effect in terms of the judges seeing the impact. Earlier, she was using a lot of touch punches, but today her opponent felt the full force. It is important for scoring. Her straight punches are landing on the target now,” Bhatt observed.

At the World Championships, Jaismine lost to USA’s Rashida Ellis, who went on to win gold. “When she received a couple of body punches from the USA boxer, she forgot what her strategy should be. But now she is becoming more mature in the ring,” Bhatt said about the bout in Turkey.

“Greater aggression” would have helped her progress at the World Championships; that’s how Jaismine analysed her game in Turkey, about what went wrong.

A bronze medal winner in the Asian Youth Boxing Championships and a silver medalist in Boxam International Championship in Spain, she went through a tough time last year after contracting Covid. “I had a lot of problems. For five to six months, I could not train properly. My Haemoglobin had dropped. It was a difficult period for me. But a year on, I am feeling fine and have no fitness issues,” Jaismine said.

Sandeep considers a CWG berth just a small milestone in a long journey that lies ahead. “She is driven, has the talent and is from a boxing family. Our duty is to make sure the next generation reaches greater heights in the ring.”

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