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A year after Olympics bronze... Hail Mary!

August 08, 2013 16:21 IST

A year after Olympics bronze... Hail Mary!

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Laxmi Negi salutes 30-year-old mother of three boxing champion MC Mary Kom for her perseverance.

It is exactly a year since the country acknowledged the presence of a truly great champion.

MC Mary Kom wrote her name in the book of sports legends when she won the bronze medal in boxing at the London Olympics. The medal was all that the little warrior from Manipur needed to gain the attention of her countymen.

As a reporter and former boxer, my memory of Mary dates back to almost a decade, when she won a gold medal at the World Championships in 2002.


Image: MC Mary Kom
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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I first saw her at the fifth Senior Women’s National Boxing Championships, in Kokrajhar, Assam, in 2004. By that time she was a respected figure on the national boxing scenario. With a World Championship and Asian Championship gold medal she was already an inspiration. But what followed were some jaw-dropping incidents that only confirmed her determination to succeed.

The National Championships are infamous for organizational bungling. So when the then pin-weight boxer arrived with the Manipur contingent, she learnt that the team’s lodging was yet to be taken care of. But it was time for practice and the issue did not bother her. She and the rest of the team left their baggage on the floor of a nearby dormitory and started running up the hill as it was time for practice, which supersedes trivial things like boarding and lodging!

One’s respect for this 30-year-old mother of three immediately grew. That very moment I realised that success does not come without hard work.

My admiration for Mary grew further when she was already a three-time World champion in the 46 kg weight category.


Image: MC Mary Kom


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In 2008, it was Assam again, but this time the capital city was hosting the Asian Championships. To everyone’s surprise, Mary, who had just delivered twins through c-section, was a part of the Indian contingent. Not many were happy with her inclusion, suggesting she was not full fit; some even suggested that she should hang her gloves. But, once in the ring, the fighter in her came to the fore and a silver medal from the championships silenced all her doubters.

Later in the year, she made it to the World Championships in China and returned with a gold medal.

In 2010 Mary had to fight her friends for a lone slot in the 48 kg light-fly category at the World Championships in Bridgetown, Barbados. She made the grade, and at age 27 returned with a historic fifth successive World Championship gold medal. 


Image: MC Mary Kom
Photographs: Uttam Ghosh/Rediff.com

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A year after Olympics bronze... Hail Mary!

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The year 2012 was the most crucial as women’s boxing was making its debut in the Olympics, and Mary, having won everything else the sport had to offer, was eyeing a shot at it.

But at 29 years of age and a mother of three, would she be able to endure the challenge of the Games in a higher weight category -- 51 kgs.

I asked Mary why she wanted to continue? I showed her the positives -- that she is already a five-time World champion and among the most successful women’s boxers in the world. I told her ‘Magnificent Mary’ could retire on a high, and the world would always refer to her as champion boxer.

What if she will not qualify for the Games? Won’t it be a shame if she fails on the biggest of all stages? All attempts to instil the fear of losing fell on deaf years. As always, she listened with a keen ear and assured that she had the prayers of the entire nation with her.


Image: MC Mary Kom
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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On August 8 this god-fearing boxer brought tears to her legion of fans despite losing gallantly in the quarter-finals to eventual gold medallist Nicola Adams of Great Britain.

She did not make it to the final, but the bronze medal was a creditable achievement. On returning, instead of gloating, she apologized to her countrymen for not winning gold.

Humility, thy name, Mary!

Now there is talk that at the Rio Olympics in 2016 the 48 kg category could be included for women. As that’s the class in which she reigned as World champion, she has already set her sights on it.

She says she wants to bring gold for her country. Can she?

She will be 33 then, and way past her prime. But, as we’ve seen, Mary always dreams the impossible. She’s quite contrary.


Image: MC Mary Kom
Photographs: Hitesh Harisinghani/Rediff.com

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