In New Delhi to meet the Union sports minister Sarbananda Sonowal, she made it clear that suspension has taught her a big lesson in life. Ever since facing a suspension, the boxer chose to avoid the media, dodging all the questions. But on Thursday, she was up for an exclusive interview with ABP Live, speaking on a range of issues.
You were finally given the Asian Games medal on Wednesday. That must have been a big relief…
(Smiles) Yes, certainly. I am a little relieved now. It’s time to take a step forward and focus on the future. Whatever has happened in Incheon is in the past now. I have to start afresh and that’s the priority at the moment.
But the AIBA is yet to revoke the suspension. How can you be so confident about your future?
The sports minister (Sarbananda Sonowal) has assured me of all help. Even, the Boxing India and Indian Olympic Association have been quite supportive. I have accepted my fault, and I think AIBA will allow me to continue with my game. I was elated to see Sachin Tendulkar sir coming out in my support. It was really touching.
So, what’s next?
Keeping aside all the gloomy days, I am focusing on my training. I have started preparing for the forthcoming tournaments. My target is to seal a berth for the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, and I will try my best to qualify for that. I am working hard, and preparing myself mentally to face the challenges.
Let’s put it straight. Did you even dream that refusing the medal would land you in so much trouble?
(Pauses) Honestly speaking, no. It all happened in the spark of the moment, and I couldn’t even think of the consequences. Now, when I look back at those days, I feel, I shouldn’t have done that. May be, I could have reacted differently. But it was all so sudden, that I thought of returning the medal. The last few months have been terrible; AIBA suspension has indeed taught me a lesson. It has taught me to be more confident, and has taught me how to deal with the odds.
How did you spend your days at home, when the world was busy discussing your future. Did you think of giving up?
Not really. I was spending time with my son Tomthil, and decided to stay away from the outside world. I guess, everyone needs such moments, at least once in your life. That makes you confident, and you tend to come out stronger.
Sachin’s support must have been a big boost….
Definitely, it was. I have always been a great fan of Sachin sir, and when he raised his voice for me, I was extremely grateful to him. Being a legendary cricketer, he knew what a sportsman goes through, when some decisions go against them. I have just met him once, but his support really helped me. Even Mary Kom, encouraged me a lot. I met her in Manipur and she told me to keep calm and focus on the future. With Sachin sir and Mary supporting me, my moral was lifted!
There’s a buzz that you are planning to set up an academy in Manipur. Is that true?
Yes, we have bought a land in Manipur, and my husband (Thoiba) is looking after the project. I want to produce more boxers from Manipur.
Now that you have learned a lesson, what would your advise be for the youngsters, who often show the tendency of expressing their dissatisfaction over judges’ decision?
No one should take a drastic step. Speaking from my experience, I will request all the youngsters to stay away from controversy and focus on their natural game. After all, we are boxers, and should try to ensure fair play. Emotions can often cost us dearly.
That’s quite a realization, Sarita. All the best for the future…
(Laughs) Thank you. Keeping aside the controversy, I am trying to start a new life, and before that I am planning a holiday with my family. Hope, the new year brings good fortunes for me!