Did off-field distractions derail Lovlina Borgohain at CWG 2022?

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The Olympian returns empty-handed from the multi-sport event.

Lovlina Borgohain was one of the favourites to win a medal at the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham. The pugilist was one of the stars of the boxing squad and someone who was showing a lot of promise in her performances of late. However, in a huge setback to both the nation and the player, the Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist was knocked out in the quarterfinals in the 70kg weight category.

The two-time World Championships bronze medalist lost her bout to CWG 2018 silver medalist Rosie Eccles of Wales. “Lovlina is disappointed with her third-round hand movements. The biggest setback was the warning and it turned it around in favour of Rosie. It was an unexpected decision and we are unhappy about this,” her coach Bhaskar Bhatt said after the contest.

However, there is more than meets the eye. The defeat did not simply happen because Lovlina’s opponent was better than her. It was most likely an accumulation of recent events leading up to the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Here is a look at what took place and why the off-filed issues could have affected her performance at the games in Birmingham:

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Mistreatment by Boxing Federation of India

Lovlina Borgohain alleged that she was mistreated by the Boxing Federation of India in the preparatory stages of the Commonwealth Games. In a scathing tweet, she indicated how her coach Sandhya Gurung was denied entry into the Commonwealth Games village. This was a major obstacle in her preparation for the multi-sport event.

The Tokyo Olympics bronze medalist alleged “mental harassment” by the authorities who were too uptight about rules. “In BFI’s case, the limit was just four support staff to 12 boxers. Only 33% of the playing contingent is allowed as support staff, which in BFI’s case for the 12 boxers (8 men and 4 women) stands to be for support staff, (including coaches) who were to travel with the team to Birmingham.” the statement by the BFI read.

Lovlina’s tweet suggested that her training was stalled eight days before the competition and her second coach was sent back to India. She was clear in her message that these issues were playing a negative role in her preparations for the CWG and were making it difficult for her to focus. 

Opening Ceremony controversy

The pugilist was in the middle of more controversy right at the start of the 2022 CWG, in the opening ceremony. Lovlina Borgohain was left stranded after leaving the event midway through. Mohammad Hussamuddin and she took the decision to leave early, as they had to train in the morning. Since there were no cabs available, the duo took a bus back to their accommodation.

However, Rajesh Bhandari, India’s Chef de Mission and the vice president of the BFI, was unhappy with the situation. “We were in the middle of the ceremony and I got to know later that she and another boxer left early. We all came in buses and the taxi option was not available at that time. They shouldn’t have come if they wanted to leave early. There were so many athletes who decided not to come as they had training or competition in the morning, which we completely understand. I will be speaking to the boxing team on this matter,” he said fuming.

The quarterfinal bout

Lastly, Lovlina Borgohain’s performance in the quarterfinal against her Welsh opponent left a lot of question marks. The pugilist, despite being the favourite to advance, looked to be lacking in focus and energy. As the coach clarified, the warning had thrown her game off, but that’s part and parcel of the sport and an Olympic medalist like her could have played with more intensity in the third and deciding round. 

The 24-year-old started the bout well and looked in control after the first two rounds. However, fatigue got the better of her in the third round. The lack of sharpness in her hand movements was clear to see and Rosie took advantage to steer the match away from her opponent in the deciding round.

Lovlina Borgohain must come back from this setback stronger than before. It is imperative that the federation allows her the coaches she wants and that there is no controversy leading up to major tournaments that are yet to come. Clearly, the off-field issues had an effect on her performance at the 2022 Commonwealth Games.

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