Olympic dream realised, Mary Kom now targets medal
It was a day M C Mary Kom will never forget for the rest of her life.
For more than a decade now, the Manipuri lady has sacrificed everything for boxing.
On Sunday, at the ExCel Arena, in London, she finally reaped the reward for hard work as women's boxing made its debut at the Olympics.
The 29-year-old boxer realized her dream of competing at the Olympics with an authoritative 19-14 victory over Poland's Leszek Piotrowski that earned her a berth in the quarter-finals of the women's 51 kg flyweight category.
The victory was also Mary's ideal gift for her twin sons -- Raengpe and Naidong -- who on Sunday celebrated their fifth birthday back home in Manipur.
Image: Poland's Karolina Michalczuk, fights India's Mary Kom during the women's flyweight boxing competition
Photographs: Patrick Semansky/AP
'The Olympics are very special'
The caring mother that she is, Mary, in between all the celebrations following her victory, took a moment to remember her sons, who watched her bout on television with other members of her family.
"Today is an emotional day for me; it is my twin sons' fifth birthday. I cannot be there to celebrate because I am fighting in the ring. I am looking forward to being with them, but this is important," said Mary, after the bout.
She revealed how she came out of retirement to make it to the Olympics.
"The Olympics are very special. Every athlete works to play at the Olympic Games. This is my 12th year of fighting and I came out of retirement and changed my weight because I had to play at the Olympic Games. Luckily I qualified, and today I won," she said.
Image: Mary Kom of India (L) celebrates her victory Karolina Michalczuk of Poland during the Women's Fly (48-51kg) Boxing
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images
'It is a very big day for Indian boxing'
Mary had to jump a weight category, to 51kg, to make the cut because her previous weight category of 48kg was not included for Games.
It took months of hard work, dedication and commitment to get to this level and now she is just one win away from an Olympic medal.
India's boxing coach Gurbax Singh Sandhu hailed Mary's victory and expressed hope that it will lift the sport in the country.
"It is a very big day for Indian boxing. She boxed intelligently, with good footwork, and was scoring and moving. I think she demonstrated all the moves. She comes from the north of India and I think this has been a very big lift for her and women's boxing," he said.
Image: Mary Kom of India in action with Karolina Michalczuk of Poland during the Women's Fly (48-51kg) Boxing
Photographs: Scott Heavey/Getty Images
'It is the first bout of women's boxing in the Olympics'
Having kicked off her campaign on a wining note, Mary is well aware that the burden of expectation is only going to increase now. But she is quick to inform that she knows how to handle the pressure.
"Today I did not have any pressure; before also I didn't have any pressure. There is some pressure, but I can control myself by listening to music and watching movies," said Mary.
She thanked her fans for their support, saying the victory was possible because of their prayers and good wishes.
"I am happy. It is the first bout of women's boxing in the Olympics. I am happy because everyone supported me... the ministry, the government and all my sponsors; that is why I got here. The whole country also supported me... people of all religions, like Hindu, Muslim, Christian; everyone prayed for me," she added.
The nation's attention will again turn to Mary on Monday, when she takes on Maroua Rahali of Tunisia at 1400 local time (1830 IST). If she wins that bout, India is assured of at least another bronze medal at the Olympics. And Mary, a place in Indian sports history!
Image: India's Mary Kom falls to the canvas during her fight with Poland's Michalczuk in their Women's Fly (51kg) Round of 16 boxing match
Photographs: Murad Sezer/Reuters