Sunar sets sights to end 20-year boxing gold droughtAs both players and coaches are complaining about poor infrastructure for preparations, proper match exposure with the South Asian Games less than three months away, Sunar’s dream of winning a gold at home soil could be a tough ask.
Nepali boxer Sangita Sunar set sights at the gold medal in the upcoming 13th South Asian Games slated for December 1-10 on home soil. She is currently undergoing a closed camp training and secured one of the six berths for the regional Games allotted for women.
Nepal last struck a gold medal in boxing 20 years ago during the Eighth SAF Games (now renamed as SAG) in 1999. And with the players and coaches, both complaining about poor infrastructures for preparations and proper match exposure less than three months away, Sunar’s dream of winning a gold medal on home soil could be a tough ask.
Born in Dhikurpokhari in Kaski district, Sunar’s interest was in tennis and wanted to play the game when she joined Armed Police Force (APF) in 2012. She initially tried out in Nepal Army but didn’t meet the age requirements to join them. Soon there was a vacancy in APF where Sunar, now meeting the age requirements, applied and was recruited. “I was also interested in boxing and volleyball but not so much as tennis,” said the 25-year-old. But a meeting with the-then APF chief changed the course of her interest for good. “I met APF Chief Durja Kumar Rai and he suggested me to try boxing. The-then APF chief said my height and physic suit better for boxing,” recalled Sunar.
Sunar took the suggestion positively and started boxing training. She even started to enjoy the game. She said her coach Kiran Thapa encouraged in her bid to become a better boxer. Despite embracing the ‘man’s game’, Sangita received good support from her family as well. “My family knows one can earn a good name in any sports but has to work hard towards achieving it. They have supported in my journey as an athlete,” said Sangita.
Sunar has now been in the sport for five years and has won multiple accolades with the APF club. She won the gold medal in the seventh and eighth National Games. She also struck gold in the Bir Ganeshman National Boxing Championships in Birgunj this year. She has the experience of competing at international tournaments but medals have eluded her so far. The boxer hopes to finally end the drought by clinching a medal in the 13th South Asian Games. But she knows well, it is easier said than done to earn her first international medal.
Sangita, along with other boxers, had an opportunity to train in Thailand for over a month thanks to an arrangement made by the National Sports Council and Nepal Boxing Association from July this year. The training opportunity in Thailand was a big learning curve for the boxer. There they trained at a better facility and proper gears in Thailand but upon returning home, they have not been able to match the level and intensity of training. One main reason, Sangita believes, is the country lacks proper boxing infrastructure.
Coach Prakash Thapa Magar also reiterated Sangita’s concerns over the lack of proper training facilities in the country. “Training went really well in Thailand. But back in Nepal, it has not been as good as desired,” said Magar. With the boxing hall undergoing maintenance, players are sometimes forced to train in the open space in Satdobato. Lack of enough competitions is also obstructing the growth of boxers. “There are not enough competitions for players to compete. This makes it difficult for players to evaluate their growth. Training alone will not help anyone unless players get to play competitive games on a regular basis,” said Magar.
Magar knows Nepali boxing has high hopes on Sunar to achieve something in the upcoming regional sports meet. “Upon analysing her training in Thailand, we can see a massive improvement in her defensive game. She is also trying to improve on her offensive game. She is hard-working and a disciplined person and eager to correct the flaws she has in her game,” said Magar.
Sunar is aware that the country has high expectations for her. She has been working hard towards meeting those expectations in the regional Games. A big hindrance for boxers to strike medal, however, is the lack of proper facilities. It is depriving boxers training well in the lead up to the South Asian Games.
“We are targeting three boxing gold medals this time. But everything has to be smooth sailing for that to happen,” said coach Magar. Sunar also thinks support from the government and association could have been better. “I know there is not a lot to make in boxing but my other concern is government and boxing association only rewards with cash prize when you win medals. When you don’t, you receive nothing,” said Sunar.
Sangita knows very well that putting in hard work or having proper training does not always guarantee a medal for athletes. “Simply recognising a medal and not the effort of athletes will only discourage athletes. This tendency of the sports authorities has to change,” she said.