Boxer Pooja Rani (75kg) missed out on a medal at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Saturday after losing to China's Li Qian 5-0 in the women's middleweight quarterfinal. Making her Olympics debut, the 30-year-old Pooja had defeated Algeria's Ichrak Chaib 5-0 in her opening bout on Wednesday to enter the quarterfinals.
Only three Indian boxers have won an Olympic medal -- Vijender Singh (men's middleweight bronze, Beijing 2008) and MC Mary Kom (women's flyweight bronze, London 2012), and Lovlina Borgohain, who assured herself of a medal following her quarterfinal win in the women's welterweight division on Friday.
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Who is Pooja Rani?
Hailing from Haryana's Bhiwani District, considered the cradle of boxing in India, Pooja Rani took up the sport at 18, a 'really late' age. She joined the Hawa Singh Boxing Academy, but kept it a secret from her father, fearing his disapproval. When her father found out, he banned her from training.
It took a lot of convincing from her coach Sanjay Kumar Sheoran before Rani was allowed to compete. Sheoran did so because Rani was a 'complete natural' with 'incredible power'. Rani quickly began to come good on that talent, announcing herself at the national stage before winning silver at the 2012 Asian Boxing Championships. At the 2012 London Olympic qualifiers, she failed to prepare against her opposition, by her own admission, and lost to American Claressa Shields, now a two-time Olympic gold medallist.
Rani bounced back to win more medals, including bronze at the 2014 Asian Games and bronze at the 2015 Asian Championships. However, she again fell short of Olympic qualification, this time for Rio 2016. While celebrating Diwali during a break she took afterwards, a firecracker exploded in her left hand, burning it badly and putting her out of action for a year. While waiting for her hand to heal, she resumed training on her right side, but ended up hurting her right shoulder, extending her hiatus by an additional six months.