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Mongolian 12-year-old Finds Joy in Boxing, Dreams of the Olympics

Twelve-year-old Gerelt-Od Kherlen couldn’t hide his joy after winning the bronze medal in the children’s national boxing championship in Mongolia.

In September, his father learned about the opening of the Mongolian Boxing Academy near their home in Dambadarjaa, a district on the outskirts of Ulaanbaatar. His son had been restless at home, and now his parents feel a sense of relief.

“We are happy that our son has found his passion and hobby,” said his mother, Narantsetseg Narantsogt. Gerelt-Od had been playing chess at school until the program was discontinued. When they heard about the new boxing club, “we decided to send him, because it will keep him away from playing on smartphone and watching too much TV at home.”

In Mongolia, the home of the legendary conqueror Genghis Khan, contact sports are a part of a warrior tradition. Mongolians have won Olympic medals in boxing and other individual sports such as wrestling and archery.

Gerelt-Od was already strong. Growing up in a district without running water, he fetched water daily for his family. He also chopped firewood, which he says helped him develop patience and resilience.

At the boxing academy, he and dozens of other children learned how to punch and avoid getting hit. Gerelt-Od trained for more than two hours every day before school.

Less than a year later, he was among more than 400 boxers between the ages of 10 and 14 competing in the national championship. His third-place finish pleasantly surprised his family.

He now wears a T-shirt featuring pictures of famous Mongolian boxers and dreams of becoming an Olympic champion.

His father, Kherlen Nasantogtokh, expressed gratitude to the academy trainers who chose to work with children in a modest district that, like its families, are still in transition.

Source: AP News