Throughout her fancied career Mary Kom has seen women boxers, older and younger, bag medals at the World Championships. For more than sixeteen years, the 36-year-old was the one certainty as other boxers won a medal but failed to repeat the feat.

Mary has been there before, having fought six finals at different editions of the tournament and is now on the verge of winning her sixth gold medal. But, for the other three – Sonia Chahal, Simranjit Kaur and Lovlina Borgohain – it’s a different feeling altogether with all of them being 13 years her junior. “It’s great to be here and reach the semi-finals. The feeling is different but I want to work harder and win a gold medal,” Simranjit says.

For the 23-year-old boxer from Punjab, this competition is not just about being another medallist from India, but a recognition she longed for after winning the Youth World Championship bronze medal back in 2012.

“A junior medal is something for a boxer but a medal at the senior level I had got a bronze medal last time at Youth Worlds. But no one recognised me at that time. So this time I wanted to show what I am capable of repeating the feat at the senior level,” she says.

Simranjit isn’t the only youngster saying that. Sonia, semi-finalist in the 57kg category, is happy after her major medal at the international level. Not only does this medal kick start her career, it also makes her a strong contender for a place in the senior team in the long run.

“I had gone to a few international competition but never this big. A medal here means a lot as this is my first big medal. Now 57kg is a tough category with Sonia and Shashi and other young girls coming into it. I had to beat them to be in this team and now with the medal, I can move forward,” Sonia says.

Both Sonia and Simran came into the camp at the same time, in 2016 after the Senior Nationals where they were champions in respective categories. They took time to break into the national team given the stiff competition. But they are now world medallist for India and their performance has people sit up and take notice.

“I am very happy with Mary’s performance but I am more happy with the performance of the younger girls. Manisha did not win a medal but she was very good. Sonia, Simranjit, Lovlina have made great progress,” India coach Raeffele Bergamasco says. “Indian boxers only mature and improve after they are 25 so these girls will only get better”.

The three boxers have improved since they first joined the camp. Simranjit knew that this opportunity will not be knocking the door again so a medal would also justify her selection.

“I didn’t want to lose this opportunity. This is the first time I got a chance in the senior category so a medal here was a must and I was confident about it. It’s happening in India so I felt I would do well,” she says.

But playing in front of the home crowd also brings pressure along with it. Both Simranjit and Sonia agree that there is nervousness before a bout but once in the ring, everything else ceases to exist.

“There is tension before a bout. It is about the boxers who you will be facing. They are experienced and you are always thinking what will happen. But once we are here, we want to win a medal. What do we have to show at the end of it if we cannot win a medal?,” Sonia says.

For Simranjit, it’s like fighting butterflies before writing an exam. “It’s like the nervousness before an exam. When you are walking to the ring when you feel it. But once the bell rings it’s over. We take few deep breathes and look at the crowd for a bit. Once the bell rings its good,” she says.

They have also tried picking a few tricks from Mary’s book. The Indian has been a world champion before her home crowd in 2006, the last time Delhi hosted the tournament.

Lovlina, another 21-year-old boxer, credits Mary for keeping her relaxed after a bout, especially after she confirmed a bronze medal on Tuesday.

“Mary didi came to me and said ‘this (your game) is nice, keep going the same way’. So it feels good,” she says, before adding, with a laugh that it’s not as easy as Mary makes it look.

“She has been boxing for so long and she will come up to us and say do this and that. It’s so easy for her,” she says.

Another all the three girls have found to keep themselves relaxed is through music. While Sonia prefers Punjabi pop songs, Simranjit plays Hindi and English songs. She also has been listening to motivational speaker Sandeep Maheshwari.

“I relax with music and listenting to Sandeep Maheshwari. I started listening for the last one year to relax my mind. Even before a bout I listen to music or watch a Rory Jones Jr bout to pump up myself,” Simranjit says.

While both boxers use music as their relaxing act, the two have shown strong characters inside the ring and outside of it to get so far.

After losing her father in July earlier this year, Simranjit was back in the camp after 10 days. She wanted to be on the team that was at Commonwealth and Asian Games but missed the chance. Sonia too was “too inexperienced” to be on the team.

The Worlds, however, is a breakthrough chance. A gold here would make them the flag bearers of Indian boxing for the years to come. But, all three youngsters know that it will be a tough ask.

“Now that I have a medal I can play more freely. But I’ll still aim for a gold medal here. I know now I will box better. I have the hunger, something I learnt from Mary,” Simranjit says.

While respectful to Mary’s contribution to India boxing, Sonia says it is time for youngsters to take over. “Some very old girls with a lot of experience are here. But there is a limit to everything. In the end the young boxers will take over. Unka khun bhi garam rehta hai [They are hot-blooded]. Technique bhi fail ho jati hai,” she says