A few days after losing his father, Asian champion boxer Pooja Rani prepares for the Strandja Memorial

New Delhi: From rejoicing at her brother’s wedding to total despair at losing her father, life has changed in five days for two-time Asian champion and Tokyo Olympian Pooja Rani.

But the national champion is back in training here and is also set for her first competitive outing of the season, the prestigious Strandja Memorial Tournament which kicks off on February 18 in Sofia, Bulgaria.

“I came back to national camp yesterday,” the 81kg boxer told PTI, her soft voice reflecting the pain and helplessness of taking another hit just when things were going well for her afterwards. having finished as a quarter-finalist at the Tokyo Olympics.

She’s pretty used to life going wrong at the most inopportune moment.

A career-threatening shoulder injury a few years ago and burnt hands just before a major tournament testify to Pooja’s struggles.

But it hurts more than anything she’s endured so far. The death of her father Rajbir Singh, a retired Haryana Police Inspector, is a blow as he was her biggest motivation despite his opposition to her early boxing career.

“He was my biggest inspiration. I was very close to him. It happened five days after my brother’s wedding last month, I had come back to camp and suddenly around 3 a.m. (February 1 ), I was told he had died of heart failure, I rushed home,” she recalls before leaving calm, unable to revisit the trauma beyond that.

“When I came back to camp after my brother’s wedding, he gave a victory sign to see me off, I can’t get that out of my head. I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s like I was stuck in that moment,” she said.

But life goes on and the Bhiwani boxer, who also has a bronze medal at the 2014 Asian Games to her name, hopes to make her father proud at the Strandja Memorial.

“Whether I win or lose, all he was trying to do was make me happy. He opposed my love for boxing when I started, but once he started he was like a pillar, with me through every triumph and every disappointment. I hope I can make him proud.

“I had very little time to train despite everything that happened, but I hope to do well in Strandja,” she said.

The tournament, which opens the European season, will feature both male and female boxers. India’s women’s team will consist entirely of the reigning national champions.

Tokyo’s male Olympians will skip the Strandja memorial

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The men’s team will also be mostly represented by national champions, meaning the five, who competed at the Tokyo Olympics, will be waiting a bit longer before getting back into action.

Amit Panghal (51 kg), Vikas Krishan (69 kg), Manish Kaushik (63.5 kg), Ashish Chaudhary (75 kg) and Satish Kumar (+91 kg) have been training at Patiala national camp for the past three weeks but have yet to be ready for competition in terms of physical condition.

“They will have to skip this one. Fitness levels are still not where they should be considering they did not compete after Tokyo and resumed training less than a month ago,” a Federation source said. Indian Boxing at PTI.

Among the national champions who would miss the event are Shiva Thapa (63.5kg), who twisted his ankle a few weeks ago, Sanjeet (91kg), who is nursing a shoulder injury, and World Championship bronze medalist Akash (54kg).

Both teams are due to leave on February 17 after undergoing pre-departure COVID-19 tests.

The squads:

Men: Govind (48kg), Ankit (51kg), Rajpinder Singh (54kg), Rohit Mor (57kg), Varinder Singh (60kg), Dalvir Singh (63.5kg), Akash (67kg), Rohit Tokas (71kg), Sumit ( 75kg), Sachin Kumar (81kg), Lakshya Chahar (86kg), Gaurav Chauhan (91kg), Narender (+91kg)

Women: Nitu (48kg), Anamika (50kg), Nikhat Zareen (52kg), Shiksha (54kg). Sonia Lather (57kg), Meena Rani (60kg), Parveen (63kg), Anjali Tushir (66kg), Arundhati Chaudhary (71kg), Saweety (75kg), Pooja Rani (81kg), Nandini (+81kg).

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