Dinko Singh inspired Mary Kom to take up boxing
Mangle Chungneijang Mary Kom or simply Mary Kom, now stands in her own league.
While the likes of Vijender Kumar and Akhil Kumar were hogging the limelight for their stupendous show at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Mary has slowly but steadily building up the blocks for a day, when the entire world would consider her a force to reckon with.
And today, while she is considered to be one the fiercest fighters in the ring, off the court, she is just like any other happy go lucky person, who enjoys the life to the fullest.
And when she won her fifth successive World Championship Gold in Barbados, she had stamped her authority on the world scene as well.
While, one have to thank a certain Dinko Singh, who inspired this 27-year-old, it's now her turn to inspire other women to take boxing seriously.
Mary took to boxing quite late, but contrary to everybody's expectations, she had a rousing start to her career. In the first year itself, she became state and national champion in 2000, which was followed by a historic silver medal at the World Championships.
"I used to watch boxing great Mohammad Ali in TV and in 1998. And when Dingko Singh won gold at the Asian Games, I decided to take boxing more seriously and that's how everything began," she told rediff.com.
Image: MC Mary Kom
'My father said not to join boxing'
But not many know that boxing was not Mary's first love.
"During my childhood, I was very interested in fighting -- karate, kung fu and boxing. I used to always watch action movies, all the Jackie Chan movies," recalls the Manipuri boxer.
Although she may have enjoyed success, but the start to the sport wasn't such an easy one.
Growing up in a state, which was hit by violent insurgencies, Mary Kom in fact didn't tell her parents when she took to boxing.
"I never told my family when I started boxing. They thought that I've joined some extra-curricular programme. It was only after that I became a state champion that they got the news from radio and newspaper," she says.
"My father was furious to start with and said not to join boxing. His family was skeptical about the whole issue and the neighbours too were critical of the game.
"My dad would often say, 'As a girl you cannot win the world'. I took it up as a challenge and said to myself, 'I will prove to the world that everything will be ok.'
Image: Mary Kom gets the Best Sportswoman of the Year award from VVS Laxman at the Sahara India Sports Awards 2010
'My husband has been my pillar of strength'
And now after so many years, she has not only proved her father wrong, but also have got a perfect partner who encourages and supports her.
"It's been a difficult road for me but I have done it for my country. And all this is possible because of my husband [Onler Kom], who has been my pillar of strength for all these years," she says.
"As far as my father is concerned, he still doesn't know the rules and whenever I discuss anything about boxing he says,'boxers get hurt.' But he is proud of me today," she adds.
Not surprisingly Mary will lead the India's charge at the Asian Games in Guangzhou, which commences from November 12 and then achieving her bigger goal -- to win gold at the London Olympics 2012.
The 27-year-old mother-of-two, who competed in the 48kg division to clinch a historic fifth World Championship title in Barbados, was picked for the 51kg flyweight division -- one of the three weight categories in women's boxing which has got the International Olympic Committee's nod for inclusion in the 2012 London Olympics as well.
Image: MC Mary Kom with her coaching staff
'I want to be a coach when I retire'
The other two boxers picked for the Asian Games are Preeti Beniwal (60kg) and Kavita Goyat (75kg).
"I was a bit disappointed that women's boxing was not there at the Commonwealth Games. But I'm hoping to make an impact at the Olympics," she says.
Mary also revealed that she will hang up the gloves after the winning the Olympics.
"I want to be an Olympian and that's something that keeps me going," she says.
"I will definitely go for gold, but representing the country at the grandest stage of all is a reward in itself.
"I have been training really hard on improving my fitness, power and stamina. I know it will be tough out there but I think I have the experience to see thorough the opponents," she adds.
Mary wants to wrap her career with gold and after that she plans to train aspiring women boxers. "I want to be a coach when I retire," she says.
One of the teething problems that a sport like boxing faces is the lack of sponsors says Mary.
"It's difficult to get sponsors for athletes, especially for boxing. Glamorous sports like cricket, tennis find it easy to get sponsors, but not us. Thankfully Herbalife and Olympic Gold Quest have come to help me out, but I would urge more sponsors to come in and support the sport," she says.
Image: MC Marykom with Kavita Chahal