Indian boxer Pooja Rani (75Kg) stormed into the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics after an impressive win over Algeria’s Ichrak Chaib. Rani knocked out Ichrak Chaib 5-0 in her maiden Olympic match. The 30-year-old, two time Asian Champion was in command with her right straights and also benefitted immensely from Chaib’s lack of balance in the ring. Pooja won all three rounds on the five scorecards, with one judge ruling the second round for the Indian 10-8, a score reserved for a “clear winner”
“I realised that it was this one bout between me and the Olympics. Agar ab bhi nahi hua, toh mujhe stop kar dena chahiye. I shouldn’t be boxing,” Pooja had said after securing a berth in Olympics.
However, the boxer showed no nerves and comprehensively won the bout. The 20-year-old Chaib had no answers to Pooja’s assault. The straight lefts coming in were barely defended by Chaib. And once Pooja found her rhythm, Chaib was left open as target practice.
Pooja learnt boxing in Hawa Singh Boxing academy in Bhiwani, under the late Arjuna and Dronacharya awardee’s son Sanjay Kumar. The coach played an instrumental role in Pooja’s success. Both Pooja and Sanjay’s daughter Nupur had attempted selection trials in Olympic qualifiers but the coach prayed for Pooja instead.
“You always want your elder child to succeed first. Nupur’s time will come,” Sanjay had said then.
“I haven’t eaten or drank anything all day,” Sanjay laughs, minutes after Pooja’s win on Wednesday. “I’m getting some juice right now. That is what happens when your child is at a big stage. I had full faith that Pooja was going to win today, but I was still nervous.”
Pooja came to Tokyo after winning the Asian Championships gold (she only had to fight once) in May. She also defeated former world champion Athenya Bylon from Panama at the Spain invitational in March.