DUSHANBE: Tajikistan is for the first time sending a female boxer to the London Olympics who is on a mission not only to win but to smash gender stereotypes in the religiously conservative ex-Soviet state.
Mavzuna Choriyeva, 19, won her ticket to the Games at a qualifying competition in Beijing earlier this year and will be the only competit-or from ex-Soviet Central As-ia in the boxing competition.
Choriyeva, who fights in the 60 kilogrammes categor-y, is already Asian champion but her qualification spot so delighted the nation that Pr-esident Emomali Rakhmon awarded her a car as a gift.
“My dream is to win a medal at the London Olym-pics,” she said before flying out to the British capital.
“I know this is not going to be easy — the strongest sportswomen are going to be there with victories and experience behind them. There is nothing to fear — you just need to move forwards to new victories.”
“The competition will show your level, your readin-ess and will reveal your stre-ngths and weaknesses,” said Choriyeva, who celebrated her Asian championships victory by wearing a national costume on the podium.
Like many Tajiks of her generation, Choriyeva spent much of her early life in Mo-scow where her father was working as a migrant labourer in the hope of finding better wages than in their impoverished home country.
Her father had dreamed of teaching a son to box but in the end it was his daughter Mavzuna who put on the gloves and rapidly showed her talent. When her father died, she moved back to Tajikistan to work under trainer Mirzo Shamsiyev.
“Marvzuna is a self-starter and very capable. She does it all herself,” said Shamsiyev. “She aims at the set task and takes the boxing training very seriously.”
Women’s boxing should be banned
Her breakthrough to the higher levels of her sport is all the more remarkable in an overwhelmingly Muslim country where in some conservative circles any women’s sport is frowned upon, let alone boxing.
“When a woman boxes, she stops being tender and calm. It is not for women and I think women’s boxing should be banned,” said Malokhat, 36, a mother of three children in a comment that is hardly unrepresentative.
However Choriyeva now boasts that three other girls have set out on the same path as her and have started training. “It’s wonderful that women’s boxing is now developing in our country.”
Yet it is still an uphill struggle for the women who have to share the boxing rings with their male counterparts because there are no special facilities for women.
Few parents are willing to let their daughters take part in a full-on combat sport like boxing although women are now taking up the martial art and Olympic sport of Taekwondo.