Lovlina Borgohain went into the Tokyo Olympics as a two-time world championship bronze medallist but wasn’t seen as a big favourite to return with a medal from the Olympics.

Indians have often struggled to replicate world championship heroics at the Olympic Games and after a tough draw in the women’s welterweight category, there weren’t many backing Borgohain to finish on the podium.

But from the moment the Assamese boxer stepped into the ring in Tokyo, she seemed determined to defy the odds, buck past trends and find her way to history.

The Indian displayed great adaptability to beat German World No 5 Nadine Apetz in the Round of 16. After going on the attack in the first round, she waited for her chances in the second round and punished her opponent. In a tense last round, she kept her nerves to emerge as a winner by a 3-2 split verdict.

Tokyo 2020: Meet Lovlina Borgohain, the second Indian female boxer to clinch Olympics bronze medal

Against former world champion Chen Nien-chin of the Chinese Taipei in the quarter-finals, Borgohain was very aggressive and denied Chen any chance to impose herself. She was dominant as assured herself of a medal with a win by 4-1 verdict.

Borgohain was overwhelmed by eventual gold medallist Busenaz Surmeneli in the semi-finals, but even then she won the final round. Even though it wasn’t enough, there was a glimpse of the spirit that the Indian showed throughout her campaign.

The 23-year-old became just the third Indian boxer to win an Olympic medal after Vijender Singh (2008) and Mary Kom (2012). With age on her side, Borgohain has plenty of time to turn the bronze into gold in future Olympic Games.

Scroll.in spoke to Lovlina Borgohain after her heroics in Tokyo. Excerpts:

Congratulations Lovlina on winning bronze medal at your first Olympics. What helped you achieve this feat?

It’s very difficult to win an Olympic medal. I knew I had to beat very strong opponents at the Olympics to do so. But I had the belief that I can challenge any boxer in the world. I think it was the most important aspect of my performance that helped me achieve my goal in the end.

What were your thoughts going into the Olympics? Were you nervous?

I like to keep things simple and that’s why my strategy wasn’t very complex. I was just thinking about the next step, the next punch and the next bout. I knew I won’t be able to focus on the present if I thought too much about the future. Keeping the process simple helped me focus on my strengths.

You had a tough draw, but you seemed well prepared for everything especially in that quarter-final against Chen Nien-chin. What was your plan?

Chen had beaten me four times and every time I used to wonder what I needed to do to beat her. My plan in Tokyo was to not let her think and I attacked her from the word go. That surprise element rattled her and I took full advantage of it.

What are the main takeaways from your Olympics debut?

Every opponent or bout teaches you something new. I learnt something new from each opponent. To sum it up I learnt that three things are very important for boxing at the top level. To improvise, to adapt and to overcome.

At the Olympics, every boxer comes prepared so it’s important to read what the opponent is doing and come up with solutions to tackle it. It’s not always easy to do so and you need to find ways to handle that situation without suffering a lot in the ring. But most importantly, we need to have an attitude to overcome any challenge. You can’t play with fear at such a high level.

What aspects of your boxing do you feel you need to work on looking ahead to Paris 2024?

I would say strength. When you play at Olympics you need to work on every muscle. There are many components of strength and you need to understand what your body needs. We worked on it before Tokyo and we will continue to work on it. My aim is to turn my weakness into my strength in the coming years.

Going forward, there will be big expectations from you at every event. How do you see this additional pressure?

There will be expectations and I feel it’s good to have expectations. But it’s important to understand that to achieve a certain level of performance, there is a process that needs to be followed and it takes time.

I think my focus will be on the big tournaments and I will use the smaller ones to prepare for the biggest events. It’s not as if I don’t want to win the other events but I also want to follow a process that helps me give my best at the biggest tournaments.

You are now a role model for many youngsters. What do you want to advise those who are dreaming of winning an Olympic medal?

You need to sacrifice a lot if you want to win an Olympic medal. My journey to the podium was very tough. It was hard to stay away from home for eight years and even though my family was always supporting me it is not easy to stay away for such a long time.

Secondly, I had to follow strict discipline in my life. To live a methodical life for eight years is quite challenging.

You must be flooded with messages after your medal. Can you pick the best message you received?

Yes, I received many good messages but the best one I feel will be once I turn my bronze into gold.