In 10 months, Manju Rani has travelled a long way from winning the national title in January, claiming a bronze medal in the India Open international event in May to reaching the Women’s World Boxing Championships final in Ulan-Ude, Russia. Manju excels because of her level headed approach and ability to introspect.

“I am very happy with my performance. It was such a big competition and I have given my best so far. My aim is to win the gold medal. Since I did not have much experience, I was under a bit of stress. Slowly, I am gathering experience and gaining in confidence,” Manju told Sportstar from Ulan-Ude after beating Thailand’s Chuthamat Raksat in the semifinals on Saturday.

Manju, who will celebrate her 20 birthday later this month, said she faced the biggest hurdle in the quarterfinals. “The quarterfinal bout against the North Korean boxer (Asian silver medallist Hyang Mi Kim) was the toughest so far. She was tall and a technical boxer. Her game was like mine. She tried to control the opponent’s game. So I found a bit difficulty in tackling her, but the coaches’ advice helped me.”

Hailing from Rithal village of Rohtak district in Haryana, Manju is not in a hurry to think about the Olympics. “I have not thought about changing my weight (to 51kg to fit into the Olympic weight). I will try to get set in 48kg first, before thinking about the switch. I will aim to compete in the 2024 Olympics.”

Manju acknowledges that she has learnt a lot from her idol Mary Kom. “She is a strong and technical boxer. It feels great to watch her box. Her movement and game is fabulous. I learn a lot from watching her game. She guides and motivates us,” she said.

Sahab Singh Narwal, who supported Manju from the beginning and more so after her father’s demise in 2014, said he could spot her talent instantly.

“Manju used to play kabaddi at our village and I knew she would do well in sports. Proud that she has reached this level,” said Narwal.

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