When I'm in the ring I just think of the bout and opponent'
After a superb showing at the just-concluded National Boxing Championships, MC Mary Kom tells Laxmi Negi her sights are firmly set on next year's Olympics.
MC Mary Kom is a legend in women's boxing. After winning the just-concluded National Championships in Bhopal she's flexing her arms. She's won several world titles, so it is surprising that there's so much fuss over winning a national crown.
But the fact that it's come after a gap of three years, narrates a different story.
This Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee hasn't forgotten the humiliation of the winter of 2009, when she was beaten by a rookie, named Pinki Jhangra. 2010 did bring her to the limelight again, as she scripted history in women's boxing by winning five consecutive World titles. But the euphoria was soon marred by the selection trials for the Asian Games that turned murky when her state-mate Sarita Devi challenged her supremacy. Though Mary Kom won the trail hands down, all she could take from the Asian Games was a bronze medal.
Tongues got wagging again. There was lot a bad press on her, but Mary started 2011 on a positive note, winning the Asian Cup in May. And as she kept her distance from the media, this diminutive pugilist was busy transforming herself into a sturdy boxer.
Image: Mary Kom (left)
Mary Kom's focus paying off
Today, the thick veins on her forearms suggest the amount of work she's put in at the gym over the last few months. She turned on the technical aspect of the sport. Having bulked-up her shoulders, her punches are packed with extra power. There is more sharpness in those quickfire left hooks and uppercuts.
Ask the 28-year-old about the last few months and her struggles, and the reply is: "I think I managed it quite well. I took it all in my stride, kept quite, and just kept performing."
Having tamed her conqueror of 2009 'giant-killer' Pinki Jhangra of Haryana at the recently-concluded Nationals, she says, "I always believe that it is God that gives me the will to succeed and, therefore, I just focus on performing better."
Mary's focus is certainly paying-off. Since the Asian Games she has certainly bulked-up and acquired a muscular physique.
"I am fortunate to get a personal physio. It has helped tone my upper body," she says.
The mother of two from Manipur, who comes across as an unconventional Indian woman, considers herself lucky to be eating what she likes and is happy with her weight, unlike other boxers who starve before weighing-in, in order to fall-in their weight category.
"I am always fresh as I do not have to go through the last moment tension about my weight. That is surely a positive," she adds.
Image: Mary Kom in red
Olympic berth uppermost on Mary's mind
Sealing a berth in the Olympics is now uppermost on Mary's mind. And she is hoping to achieve that end at the World Championships early next year.
Like all athletes, she says it's a dream to compete at the Games, adding she's be gunning for more, since an Olympic medal is the only accolade missing from her showcase.
Quiz her about the enormous hopes of an Olympic medal resting on her, Mary switches gears; from boxer she turns preacher.
"I just concentrate on the task at hand. All I can do is channelize my energies to keep myself fit. I always aspire to give a good performance," she declares, adding, "If I think about the millions and hopes resting on me, it will be difficult to box under those circumstances. When I am in the ring I just think of the bout and the opponent."
Image: Mary with her husband Onler and two sons