Meet the first Indian woman to win Gold in 81 kg Asian Boxing Championship

Behind every successful Indian athlete’s success, there is a painful story. However, there is no question of giving up for the ones who want to make their country proud. The story of Pooja Rani’s is certain to inspire others.

She burnt her hand while lighting crackers on Diwali three years ago. She screamed in pain as she was badly hurt. Defying all odds, she hit the training session more than a year later.

Credits: TOI

But a tragedy struck the 28-year-old Pooja once again as she picked up a shoulder injury and it seemed that her boxing career was over. But she didn’t give up! She always had the urge to win something big in life and showed the world that her career was far from over.

Hailing from Nimriwali village in Haryana’s Bhiwani district, Pooja scripted iconic comeback by becoming the national champion in the 81kg category in 2018.

A couple of days ago, Pooja relished a taste of success when she stunned the world champion Wang Lina in the final of the Asian championship in Bangkok on Friday to achieve the gold medal.

“In 2016, I burnt my hand while bursting Diwali crackers. The right hand was massively affected. I underwent a surgery and it took me nearly seven to eight months to heal. The entire recovery process lasted nearly a year,” Pooja told TOI.

“After my shoulder injury, many people thought my career was finished. But then I made a comeback at the 2018 Nationals and became the national champion and now I am also the Asian champion,” she said.

When her hand recovered, Pooja started to practice again before she suffered another drawback. “Then at the end of 2017, such was my luck that I met with a disastrous shoulder injury. The doctors found there was a labrum tear and told me that I will be out of the sport for a considerable length of time.

“But I didn’t go for surgery because that would have meant a lengthy lay-off. I decided on physiotherapy and thankfully it worked for me. During those days, I was all alone with no backing,” the boxer said.

Recalling how it all started for her, Pooja said, “I started boxing in 2009 when I had joined college after completing my 10+2. I joined the Hawa Singh Boxing Academy in Bhiwani where my coach was Sanjay Sheoran. My coach’s wife was a lecturer in my college. She told me that I should start boxing because I was blessed with a good height (5 feet 8 inches),” she said.

“Initially, my father, who is employed with the Haryana Police, had flatly refused and told me not to get into boxing. He didn’t like boxing since he believed it was a maar-dhaar sport not suitable for girls.

He thought my face will get disfigured. But my coach wanted that I should box; so he met my father and somehow made him understand that my face won’t be affected. My father relented after six months of continuous persuasion.

“Even after that when I used to go back home after practice, my father used to check if I suffered any bruises or not. If my face got bruised in a bout I used to stay back at my coach’s place so that my father wouldn’t know. I feared that he would not let me box any more if he came to know,” the six-time national champion said.

A medal at the youth Nationals in the year 2009 changed the entire complexion at home.

“When I got a silver medal at the youth Nationals, my father started supporting me and has believed in me since then. Our relatives used to tell my parents ‘why are you sending your daughter out of the house in the wee hours? Something bad might happen to her’, but my parents didn’t pay heed to their trash talk. In my entire journey of becoming a boxer, my mother (Damyanti Devi) gave me unflinching support,” Pooja, who idolises two-time world and Olympic champion Claressa Shields of the US, said.