Boxing Career Cut Short By Injuries, Usha Aims High As Coach
She retired a dissatisfied boxer despite being a two-time World Championships silver-medallist and an Asian champion but N Usha is determined to live her shattered Olympic dream, albeit as a coach.
Usha, an accomplished member of the celebrated batch that was led by none other than five-time world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist M C Mary Kom, was quite literally forced out of the sport due to a spate of injuries that plagued her just months before women's boxing was included in the 2012 Olympics.
"I did coaching diploma course from National Institute of Sports (NIS) after leaving the sport due to injury, it was back in 2012, when I was struggling with a knee injury, which required ACL reconstruction along with a cervical problem. Had I not been plagued by these injuries, I would have continued competing," Usha, who is here as the lone woman coach of the Railways Sports Promotion Board (RSPB), told PTI in an interview.
"Once you take up a sport with full passion, it is never easy to completely cut off. It is not that I planned coaching so early in my life, it just happened because I wanted to stay connected to boxing.
"I was not being able to give good performances as a player due to my injuries, I was not able to recover properly.
That phase was difficult because I was quite depressed about losing my career, about not being able to reach the targets that I set for myself. Once I gathered myself, I decided that I never wanted to give up on boxing and that's how I made up my mind to pursue coaching," she recalled.
"Every athlete dreams of being an Olympic medallist, I could have also given it a shot but for injuries. When women's boxing was made an Olympic sport, I was left with very little time for recovery and rehabilitation. It was such a phase during which I was recovering from one injury and picking up another," said the 32-year-old.
"I cannot complain about not getting enough support, Olympic Gold Quest took complete care and helped me in getting my injuries treated. But the rehabilitation part took me away from boxing training and that affected my strength. I did go back to the camp after recovering but then my neck problem, cervical issues, became too much to deal with.
"Back-to-back injuries affected me psychologically as well. Nobody wants to leave and I was a proven performer but once the time is gone, it's gone, there is nothing that one can do about it," she said.
Asked if she feels content in her new role, Usha candidly said, "I can't say I am very happy right now but yes, giving time to my family, taking care of my child has helped me. For a coach, the big target is to groom someone from the beginning and watch that person grow into a champion. Then you feel like an achiever, I am also training a few kids and I would feel like an achiever the day they make it big, win an Olympic medal.
"I don't feel completely like a coach, I still think like an active player. Perhaps that will help me be a better motivator because players know my track record and they are more likely to trust my judgement," she added.
Speaking of the overall scenario in Indian women's boxing, Usha said the new crop competing here needs some time and a lot international exposure before they can stake their claim to the legacy left by the likes of Mary Kom and her.
"There is nothing like impossible. A Mary Kom or an Usha was created by their own passion and their coaches' hard work.
The kids today are supported way better than our batch. They have more financial support coming their way. They are getting job security as well," she said.
"There are a few girls who I feel can make it big but these kids need some time because they have not had international exposure. We cannot compare these girls to Mary Kom because Mary's level is not something they can achieve. To be a five-time world champion is something that is too big."