The tag of being the ‘next Mary Kom’ has rested uneasily on her shoulders for many years now. But Sarjubala Devi isn’t one to complain.
“Accha lagta hai jab log ‘next Mary Kom’ bolte hain (It feels nice when people call me the next Mary Kom). She’s every boxer’s idol. All of us want to be like her. When I heard people call me that for the first time, I wanted to be like her all the more,” Sarjubala tells Firstpost ahead of Boxing Federation of India’s send-off for India’s contingent to the Asian Games in Jakarta/Palembang on Tuesday.
While Mary, an Olympics bronze medallist and five-time World Champion, has been dominant in her weight-class so far, Sarjubala, who also has a Worlds silver, has not always been as formidable — she did not make the cut for the Commonwealth Games earlier this year.
That heartbreak spurred her to dye her hair blonde.
“I coloured my hair after the Commonwealth Games. I had hoped to get a trial for CWG, but that never happened. I was really dejected at missing out on a spot in the Gold Coast-bound squad. So I thought I needed to change everything,” Sarjubala says. “I started with my hair. I decided to colour my hair gold as a constant reminder of what I am aiming for at the Asiad. Doosra colour nahi kiya, golden kiya taaki main lucky ho jau (I didn’t colour my hair in any other hue because I felt making it blonde would bring me luck),” she adds before breaking into a fit of giggles.
The hair was not the only thing she changed after that heartbreak. She also tweaked her training regime and her boxing style.
“Earlier my style was ‘attack, attack, attack’. I also never used to plot for a bout. Now I do that. I’ve worked on my footwork too with help from Raffaele Bergamasco (coach of the women’s team).”
She’s also changed her weight-class — moving up to the 51kg category from the 48kg event.
“The Asian Games will not have the 48kg event, neither will the Tokyo Olympics. So I realised I needed to move up now. I have competed in 51kg since the Rohtak Nationals earlier in January this year. I won gold there while in two international tournaments after that I returned with bronze,” she says.
As fate would have it, the move up in weight class will put her in the path of her idol, Mary, who will have to compete in 51kg should she want to compete at Tokyo at the age of 37.
“I have been in the same training camps as Mary didi for many years now. I always used to ask her to watch my bouts and tell me where I am making mistakes. She would tell me where I was going wrong,” she says.
“Of course, it’ll be difficult if I have to compete against her. Mary didi is the brightest star in world boxing. But when you get in the ring, everyone wants to win — it’s do or die. Jeetne ke liye toh khelega (You have to play to win).”
For now though, the next Mary Kom wants to do what the original Mary did at Incheon 2014.
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Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 13:50:35 IST