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This article was first published 10 years ago

Mary Kom's comeback -- a journey into the unknown!

May 06, 2014 09:57 IST

Image: MC Mary Kom at the training camp in Pune
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

Harish Kotian was present at MC Mary Kom's training-cum-assessment camp in Pune, where she launched her bid to return to competitive boxing after nearly 18 months away from the sport.

An 18-month lay-off is considered very big, particularly if it involves a sportsperson. Making up lost ground is almost impossible.

India’s boxing queen MC Mary Kom faces that predicament. Her last competitive bout was at the London Olympics in 2012, when she won a historic bronze medal. Since then she underwent two surgeries and had a baby. The long absence from the ring prompted aficionados of the sport to speculate that the Manipuri boxer’s career was over.

It is not! The five-time World champion is ready to return.

In her own words, she misses her “first love”.

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Mary Kom had a one-month training camp in Pune

Image: MC Mary Kom goes through her assessment
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

Would she be able to withstand the rigours of training? Would she have the stamina to last three rounds?

Those were the thoughts going through her mind for the last three months as she contemplated a full-fledged comeback. Thanks to Olympic Gold Quest those doubts were laid to rest after a few rounds of discussion with its Chief Operating Officer, Viren Rasquinha, and physiotherapist, Dr Nikhil Latey.

In March, Rasquinha and Latey decided to test the water by first making a thorough assessment of Mary’s fitness and stamina levels. The OGQ team organised a fitness-cum-training camp for Mary at the Shree Shiv Chhatrapati Sports Complex, in Balewadei, Pune, so that she could train at the facility set up for the now-defunct team Mumbai Fighters.

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'Only one out of 20 people make it back if they are lucky'

Image: MC Mary Kom (right) with her coach, Charles Atkinson
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

After being convinced about Mary’s amazing recovery, following no-holds barred fitness drills, OGQ flew in renowned boxing coach Charles Atkinson, who had trained Mary ahead of the London Olympics.

Having received reports from the training staff of her being over-weight and lacking in fitness at the start of the camp, the 72-year-old Liverpool-based coach was amazed by Mary’s recovery. Within two days he put her into the ring. Her determination to return on the world stage was there for all to see as she kept improving with each day in training bouts against national boxers Jamuna Devi and Nengneihat Kom.

“It is amazing that anybody should be able to get back to the game at a high level after 18 months,” Atkinson told

“Thinking about what she has done in the last months, the hardships she has undergone -- she was looking after her family, running after the three children, the boxing academy -- it’s amazing.

"And when you are out of the ring for so long, in many cases, only one out of 20 people make it back if they are lucky,” he added.

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'Mary has the best recovery capacity'

Image: MC Mary Kom with OGQ physiotherapist Dr Nikhil Latey
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

Latey, who along with Siddharth Sakalle, another OGQ boxing physio, personally supervised the month-long camp, was lost for words to describe Mary’s determination.

His focus was on keeping Mary motivated and building stamina and strength in her legs which would improve her footwork in the ring.

Says Latey: “For the first few days of the camp she was in pain during the stretching exercises. Actually, there were a few things that were working for Mary and a few things that were not. I would say Mary has the best recovery capacity I have seen in any of my athletes. That was one of the things that made me think that she can make a comeback.

“Talking about the factors against [her returning], in the last 18 months it was not that she was just away from boxing, but she had a pregnancy; she had a Caesarean and also had gall bladder surgery about seven months back. So her abdominal muscles must have been in a real bad shape. Besides, she was a lot heavier; she was eight kilos over! Those were the things that were working against her.”

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'I found it very difficult in the first few days of training'

Image: MC Mary Kom (right) during a training bout against Jamuna Devi
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

As the training routine got tougher, Mary only grew stronger.

There were days when she even trained in the dark because of frequent power cuts. After all, this comeback was not only for her or her family, but for team OGQ, which believed in her; for coach Atkinson, who treats her like his own daughter; for every young girl in India who dreams of becoming a boxer.

“It was very painful at the start, because I had undergone two surgeries in the last 18 months. I found it very difficult in the first few days of training, but there is still fire burning inside me. I want to make a comeback to boxing,” Mary told during the course of the camp, which started on March 2.

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'There was a moment when I thought to myself whether I should give up boxing'

Image: MC Mary Kom prepares for a sparring drill
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

Asked whether she ever thought of quitting the sport after the gall bladder surgery, Mary replied: “When I was in pain before my surgery [in September 2013], definitely, there was a moment when I thought to myself whether I should give up boxing.

"I was in so much pain at that moment, but after my surgery I could not imagine myself without the gloves on. I said to myself that I will definitely try to make a comeback.

“I spoke to my OGQ team... Viren [Rasquinha] and Nikhil [Latey] when I first decided to make a comeback and told them that I want to be back in the ring as soon as possible.

"I told them that I could not train at home because I would be busy all the time with my daily work. They told me to come to Pune, where they charted out a programme to get my fitness level back. It went off so well.

"Initially, even I was not sure how it would go, but I am glad that it passed off so smoothly.”

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'I will try to continue boxing till the Rio Olympic Games'

Image: MC Mary Kom
Photographs: Harish Kotian/

Mary’s ultimate dream is to sign off with a gold medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

“Yes, that is still in my mind and I will try my best to achieve it. I don’t know whether I will win an Olympic gold medal or not, but I will keep working hard to achieve it. I will try to continue boxing till the Rio Olympic Games,” she declared.

"But, for now, I want to stay in the present and look to do well at the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games which will be held this year. Then we can take it forward from there."

The selection trials to select the final squad for the Commonwealth Games will be held in Patiala from May 20 to 23. That should serve as a good test to gauge where Mary stands.

A career that appeared finished six months back, is now up and kicking!