(From Press Trust of India)

The one-year ban imposed on her for a tearful outburst at the Asian Games due to end Thursday, former world champion L. Sarita Devi says the forced sabbatical proved to be a blessing in disguise as it helped her become a thinking boxer and a calmer person.

Former world champion L Sarita Devi
Former world boxing champion L Sarita Devi

Sarita was handed a one-year ban by the International Boxing Association (AIBA)  for refusing to accept her bronze medal at the Asian Games after losing a controversial semifinal bout.

Sarita had cried bitterly on the podium and had even tried to hand her bronze to silver-medallist South Korean Park Ji-Na, to whom she had lost in the semis. The Indian later had to tender unconditional apologies to both the Games organising committee and AIBA for her actions.

She was nonetheless banned retrospectively from October 1, 2014 to October 1, 2015 and fined 1000 swiss francs.

“I think I have become a much better boxer now. I have been boxing for the last 15 years and I think there is still lot of space for improvement. You never stop learning. Now after this one year, I would say, I’m much more cool, a thinking boxer. Overall, both mentally and physically I’m much better than before,” Sarita, currently training in Aurangabad under former Asian Games gold-medallist Dingko Singh, said.

“Now I’m training much harder than before. I have many expectations to fulfil ….  My first target is to win the world title next year and qualify for the Rio Olympics and there again win a bright gold medal for the country,” she said.

The 30-year-old lightweight (60kg) boxer is eyeing next year’s World Championships as her comeback competitive event.

“World Championship next year would be my comeback event which is also going to be the qualifying event for the Rio Olympics. I’m going to Liverpool for training for a few weeks before the World Championship,” said the Manipuri  woman.

Talking about how she spent the last one year, Sarita said she managed to get the surgery done for a nagging wrist injury besides honing her skills during the ban period.

“It was a very quiet year for me on the playing front. I took rest and had an opportunity to get my right wrist surgery done. I had sustained this injury before the Glasgow Commonwealth Games and carried it to the Incheon Asian Games. Overall, it seems like yesterday…time goes flying,” she said.

During this time, Sarita said her morale remained intact because of the support she got from various quarters, including cricket icon Sachin Tendulkar.

Sarita said besides the external support, she also relied on her self-belief to keep herself motivated.

“I would not have been here without my family. They are my rock solid support and without them it’s almost impossible to sustain the motivation level to come back. Apart from that, the dream of making my country’s flag flying high like before keeps me highly motivated,” she said.