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Mary Kom, Sarita in Asian Championships squad

Mary Kom, Sarita in Asian Championships squad

New Delhi: The celebrated M C Mary Kom was back in her preferred 48kg category as she staved off the challenge from younger competitors to clinch a place in the Indian team for Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in Vietnam.

After three days of gruelling trials here, during which some boxers ended up fighting two bouts in one day, the veteran duo of Mary Kom and L Sarita Devi (64kg) made the cut despite trying their luck in changed weight categories.

The marquee continental event is scheduled from November 2 to 11 in the Ho Chi Minh City.

Mary Kom, a five-time world champion who had jumped a division to 51kg back in 2010 after it was included in the Asian and Olympic Games roster, will be making her sixth Asian Championships appearance.

The Rajya Sabha MP fought six bouts during the trials, winning all despite facing younger rivals in the likes of World Championships silver-medallist Sarjubala Devi among others.

The Olympic bronze-medallist had announced her decision to shuffle between 48kg and 51kg categories, depending on tournaments, at the end of last year.

The 34-year-old has five medals to her credit at the regional meet, four of them gold. But this would be the first time, the Manipuri would try her luck in a weight category that fetched her two World Championship medals — a gold and a silver.

Sarita, 35, also has five Asian Championships medals against her name, four of them gold. Sarita had recently tried her luck in the professional circuit, winning her debut bout, but decided to return to the amateur fold after a few months and decided to jump a division from 60kg to 64kg.

Both Mary Kom and Sarita had missed the 2015 edition, in which India failed to secure a single gold, ending with a silver and five bronze medals instead.

Set for an Asian debut is Haryana’s Neeraj (51kg), who won a gold medal at the Nation’s Cup in Serbia earlier this year.

World Championships’ silver-medallist Sonia Lather (57kg) expectedly made the squad along with last Asian Championships’ silver-medallist Saweety Boora (81g), who would be aiming to better the colour of her medal this time.

Pooja Rani (75kg) and Seema Punia (+81kg), both bronze medal winners in 2015, have also been selected after coming through in the trials. Pooja is also an Asian Games bronze- medallist.

India are placed third in the overall medal standings of the Asian Championships. The country has 60 medals in all — 19 gold, 21 silver and 20 bronze.

India’s Asian Championship squad:

M C Mary Kom (48kg), Neeraj (51kg), Shiksha (54kg), Sonia Lather (57kg), Pavitra (60kg), L Sarita Devi (64kg), Lovelina (69kg), Pooja Rani (75kg), Saweety Boora (81kg) and Seema Punia (+81kg).

—PTI