Chief foreign coach Rafaele Bergamasco is cautious about Indian chances at the 2019 Women's Boxing World Championships, predicting three medals from the 10-member contingent that has travelled to the Russian city of Ulan-Ude. The only Indian favourite to medal at the tournament, which begins on Thursday, will be Olympic bronze medallist Mary Kom who is bidding for her seventh gold medal at the championships.
With no Olympic quotas on offer here though, Bergamasco will be hoping to pick up tricks and learn from Indian performances in order to give his boxers a better chance at next year's Asia-Oceania qualifiers for the Tokyo Games.
Hopes rest on Mary Kom
Mary Kom has won medals in seven editions of the World Championships and will be the best bet in the Indian contingent to win another at the 2019 edition. She had ended an eight-year medal drought at the world stage with a gold medal in the 48kg category at the New Delhi edition of the tournament last year and looks to be in good touch with two gold medals in international tournaments this season as well. However, this season Mary Kom is competing in the 51kg category, in which she has not had the best results at the World Championships -- she lost in the quarters in 2012 and exited in the first round in 2016. But she has had her share of success in the flyweight division -- winning a gold medal at the 2014 Asian Games and a bronze at the 2012 Olympics -- and will be hopeful of adding another medal through her performances in the coming week.
While Mary Kom will be competing in her tenth World Championships at Ulan-Ude, another five members of the Indian team will be making their debut here. Manju Rani (48kg), Jamuna Boro (54kg), Neeraj Phogat (57kg), Manju Bamboria (64kg) and Nandini (81kg) will all be competing in their first-ever tournament on the world stage. Much will be expected of Rani who is competing in the light flyweight class in which Mary Kom had won two gold medals out of her career haul of six. It is Neeraj, though, who will be looking to deliver on the promise that many have seen in her after the win in the India Open earlier this year.
India won four medals at the previous edition of the World Championships in New Delhi and coach Bergamasco says he would be happy with a similar haul this time around as well. "I think we will win three or four medals but I'm not concerned whether we win it in an Olympic weight category or not," he said prior to the team's departure. "While I'm hoping for Mary Kom (51kg) and Sarita Devi (60kg) to come good at the Worlds, Neeraj and Lovelina Borgohain (69kg) also have a good chance to medal at the World Championships."Of these four, only Neeraj has never medalled at the championships although Sarita's last medal came over a decade ago at the Ningbo edition in 2008.
Learning for the future
With no Olympic quota at stake at the World Championships this year, Bergamasco said it would be important to learn from the boxers' performances in Ulan-Ude in order to better prepare for the Asia-Oceania Olympic qualifiers in February next year. Bergamasco predicts boxers from China, North Korea, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan will be the big threats to the Indian chances at the Asian qualifiers. "In this scenario, it is imperative to observe the game of all the opponents from the Asia Oceania region very minutely during the Worlds and then prepare our strategy for the qualifiers. It is important to get a sense of their technique as the qualifiers will be very tough," he said.