Fuel the Olympic fire: How boxer Pooja Rani is getting in shape for her maiden Games

With less than 100 days to for the Tokyo Olympics, Pooja Rani has hit the gas pedal in training

By Soham Mukherjee

In March 2020, Pooja Rani secured her ticket to Tokyo at the Asian boxing Olympic qualifiers in Amman, Jordan with an impressive display over Thailand's Pornnipa Chutee. She was the first among the Indian boxers to earn a spot for the Tokyo Games.

After the pugilists returned to the ring following a hiatus due to the Coronavirus pandemic, she continued her rich vein of form and earned a bronze medal at the Cologne Boxing World Cup in Germany.

At the Boxam International in Castellon, Spain she finished with a silver medal. In the semi-finals, she beat world champion Athena Bylon of Panama in a contest where the Indian dominated right from the beginning. However, in the finals, she suffered a setback to American Melissa Graham and had to settle with the second spot.

The Olympic Channel caught up with the Asian Champion to understand how she prepares for a bout and the diet to remain fit.

Eating right

During the lockdown, Pooja put on weight in the absence of training and her prescribed diet. But as soon as she hit the training ring at the NIS Patiala (Netaji Subhas National Institute of Sports) in September, she made sure that she had shed the extra kilos to return to her designated weight category.

However, during a competition, she follows a different diet than what she would normally eat during training.

"I prefer to eat light during the competition," she said.

"While I am training I drink a lot of water. I love eating bread omelette, and roast chicken. For breakfast, I prefer to have bread and eggs. The important thing is to stick to the quantity that my nutritionist prescribes. If he mentions one slice of bread then one it is, and not two. To reduce my weight I had to even restrict my water intake which is normally 5-6 litres."

Pooja Rani

Keep it simple

Pooja Rani has made it to numerous finals in her career. Her first major breakthrough came in 2012 when she won the silver medal at the Asian Championship in Ulaanbaatar. In 2019, she bettered her own record and won gold beating China's Wang Lina in a fierce fight, which she feels is her best fight to date.

But how does she prepare for such high-stake battles?

"I don't think about the match the day before," she stated.

"I focus on other things. I train normally and I keep things very basic. However, on the morning of the match, there is a little bit of nervousness. I think, there should be a bit of nervousness as it helps to bring out your best and help you remain on your toes," she added.

She never makes the mistake of stepping into the ring overconfident. But at the same time, the boxer is not intimated by any opponent.

"No matter against whom I am facing I am never complacent. I always take my opponents seriously, even if she is much lower-ranked than me," she said.

Training for the Olympics

Pooja is currently training at Bellary, Karnataka under Indian women's boxing's high performance director, Raffaele Bergamasco. With less than 100 days to go for the marquee event in Japan, the boxer is leaving no stone unturned to put up a good performance. The training sessions have got longer and the level has gone up a few notches.00

"We are doing very high-intensity training before the Olympics. At nine we start training and the training goes for two hours straight. Previously, it was not so taxing, but now it has got harder. Moreover, there is another session in the afternoon which is equally draining. Then you have gym and other physical exercises as well," she revealed.

After sweating it out in the ring, she believes the recovery is equally important to continue at the same level for the entire week until the day off.

"After such difficult training sessions, you must rest well so that you are prepared for the next day. Four hours of intensive training saps your energy. Therefore I try to sleep by 11 as you have to get up by 6:30 in the morning."

She likes to spend her free time on social media, especially Instagram, where her fans can track her progress as the countdown to the biggest stage of all continues.

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