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Mary shoulders Indian medal hopes 

Ulan Ude (Russia), October 2 

Six-time champion MC Mary Kom’s seemingly endless reservoir of experience makes her a strong medal contender yet again but the spotlight will also be on some youngsters when the Indias take guard at the Women’s Boxing World Championships starting here tomorrow.

The 36-year-old Mary Kom was today seeded third in the 51kg category and handed a bye into the pre-quarterfinals. She will begin her campaign on October 8. In all, five Indians got first-round byes into different stages depending on the size of the draw. No Indian will be in action on the opening day of the mega event.

Former champion L Sarita Devi (60kg) is another one to watch out for after she defeated last edition’s bronze winner Simranjit Kaur in the trials. Sarita, seeded fourth, has also got a bye but into the Round of 32. Outside the ring, Sarita is in the running to become a member of the international boxing association’s (AIBA) first athletes’ commission.

Previous edition’s bronze medallist Lovlina Borgohain has moved up a division to 69kg this time. Lovlina has been seeded third and given a bye into the pre-quarterfinals.

India Open gold medallists Neeraj (57kg) and Jamuna Boro (54kg) are among the five boxers who will be making their debuts at the big event and can be expected to create a flutter. Neeraj has got a bye into the Round of 32. In the 75kg category, Saweety Boora will be keenly watched. She was a silver medallist in the 2014 edition. 

“This squad is a nice mix. Last time we had four medals. Let’s see how the debutants respond to the challenge this time,” national coach Mohammed Ali Qamar said. “We had a training stint in Italy where we got to spar with the Chinese, which is not something that happens quite often. They hardly travel elsewhere and they are the biggest force in women’s boxing,” he added.

In the 48kg category, which Mary Kom made her own, Manju Rani will be fighting it out this time. A debutant at the World Championships, Rani got a bye into the pre-quarterfinals.

Among the veterans, Kavita Chahal (+81kg) is in the quarterfinals due to the small size of the draw and will need just one win to be assured of a podium finish at the big event, where she has won two bronze medals in the past.

India’s best performance at the tournament was back in 2006 when the country, hosting the event, topped the medals tally with a haul of eight medals, including golds for Mary Kom and Sarita.

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