India’s Seema will start her campaign at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in New Delhi just one win shy of an assured medal. Five-time world champion M. C. Mary Kom is among the eight Indian boxers who have been accorded first-round byes, but she is the only home team player to get one of the top-seeding slots as the action start at the KD Jhadav Hall today (Thursday).
The No. 2 seed Indian in 48 Kg Category will not have to enter the ring until Sunday when she takes on the winner of the preliminary round bout between Kazakhstan’s Algerim Kassenayeva and American Jazzell Bobadilla. The pugilist from Mongolia, Jargalan Ochirabat in light fly (48kg) has been given the top seed position.
Mary Kom, who is chasing her sixth world crown and considered the hosts’ best bet to win gold, is placed in the second half of the draw. She faces two main hurdles in Uzbekistan’s Julasal Sultonalieva and North Korean Kim Hyang Hyang Mi, too have received first-round byes. However, the Indian’s main opponent in the semifinals could be the North Korean and also the winner of a silver medal at the ABC Confederation.
The other Indians who have received first-round byes include Rani Pinki (51), Sonia (57), Sarita Devi (60), Lovlina Borgohain (69), Saweety (75) and Seena Punia (81+)
But Manisha (54), Smranjit Kaur (64) and Bhagyabati Kachari (81) will jump into fray straightaway as their weight categories have more entries and they will have to fight at least a couple of rounds to qualify for the quarterfinals, which are slated for Tuesday next.
India will also hope a medal from former world champion and five-time Asian gold winner, Sarita Devi in lightweight category (60 kg), the second best boxer after Mary Kom. However, the fourth-seed woman, is likely to take on Chinese Yang Wenlu, the defending world champion, and Russian Anastasiia Beliakova, the Rio Olympics bronze medal winner earlier than she would want to.
However, Seema Punia in heavy weight class (+81) is the only Indian who can get into the medal round with least efforts as she will play her quarterfinals, after having been given the first-round bye. In the quarters, she will be running into Chinese Xiaoll Yang. This is the only category which has 10 boxers in fray and six of them have been accorded the byes. But she will have to be wary of Yang Xiaoli of China, the back-to-back gold winner from Jeju and Astana.
Glasgow CWG bronze winner, Pinki Rani, in 51 kg will have a tough time as the Indian, drawn in the second half, has two likely contenders for medals in Chinese Chang Yuan, the Asian Games gold medallist, and England’s Ebonie Jones, a highly talented boxer.
Sonia in featherweight class, making her debut in the Worlds and placed in the second half, will have some torrid moments facing the likes Chinese Yin Junhua, the Rio Games silver medallist, German Ornella Gabriel Wahner and CWG silver medal winner, Michaela Walsh from Ireland in early rounds.
It will not be easy for Lovlina, Saweety and Seema as their opponents come with greater reputation. Saweety, the silver medal winner from Jeju worlds in 2014, has the top-seeded Mireille Nouchka Fontijn from the Netherlands who is a silver medal winner from Rio Games, and other Europeans and Asians in her half of the draw.
The 21-year-old Lovlina has to contend with Finland’s Elina Gustafsson, a silver medal from the last edition in Astana and Taipei’s Chen Nien-Chin, a world championships bronze medallist in the first half of the draw.
The ceremony opened with performers projecting India’s rich culture in various dance forms—Bharatnatyam, Kuchipudi, Oddisi and folk—getting a big applause. The martial arts exponents also brought out their expertise during the ceremony which kept the spectators mesmerized.
The Shillong Chamber Choir, comprising 25 members, including 15 singers, soloists and musicians, made the audience and foreign participants regale with their foot-tapping music. The choir members rocked the stage, making the occasion a memorable one with melodious performances as the pianist, Neil Nongkynrih, conducting the orchestra to finesse. Their western classical music, Khasi folk songs and opera singing made the group endearing to the audience.
The Light & Sound show, including LED drummers and fusion music, also captivated the participants and the audience alike as they enjoyed the show