Mary Kom eyes a slice of history at Tokyo 2020

After the heartbreak of failing to make the cut for the 2016 Rio Olympics, the ace Indian boxer has set sights on fulfilling her dreams at the Tokyo Olympics.

Ever since Mary Kom bagged her fifth Asian championship gold medal last month in Vietnam, the spring in her step appears to be back.   -  Sandeep Saxena

After the heartbreak of failing to make the cut for the 2016 Rio Olympics, not many expected Mary Kom to recover. But ever since she bagged her fifth Asian championship gold medal last month in Vietnam, the spring in her step appears to be back. So much so, that even the distant Tokyo 2020 seems like a realistic target.

“My dream is not fulfilled yet,” Mary said at Herbalife Nutrition’s Fit Families Fest here on Sunday. “Since London 2012 I have wanted to win gold for my country. In Rio, it couldn’t happen but I am still trying. 2020 is a bit far, yes. But I am giving my best. Whether I get or not is different but I am trying all the time."

Read: Every medal is a story of struggle, says Mary Kom

This in itself can be termed a victory for the five-time world boxing champion. She didn’t compete for more than a year since the Rio debacle. And when she returned in July, she was injured in her first international competition.

A stop-start career

Mary isn’t new to a stop-start career; twice before she had put her ambitions on hold – in 2008 and 2012 for childbirth. But staging a recovery in the 17th year of a career in a contact sport requires a superhuman effort.

“After the gap, many people were talking in the negative,” she said. “I heard many say ‘she can’t come back. She can’t perform.' Dealing with that was a big challenge. Also, there are so many other responsibilities. I am a Member of Parliament and it’s not easy.

Read: Fit body makes me invincible, says Mary Kom

“I train from 6 to 8 in the morning, come back home, take shower, have breakfast and run to the Parliament. After the lunch break at 1, I take some rest and train again in the evening from 5. This was my daily routine before this Asian Championship. That was very tough. I was lucky that I didn't suffer any serious injury.”

Adapting to changes

The 34-year-old has also had to adjust to the changing nature of the sport.

“Years back I could easily tell who my toughest opponents were. Now every boxer is tough. Why? Before they were all shorter than me. Now everyone is tall, lean and very strong. I think I am the smallest (5 ft 2 in).”

“At the Olympics, I was in 51kg because there is no 48kg. There all boxers were bigger than me. When I think now, I feel I am lucky. I am used to fighting people taller than me. I now have the technique and skill to get close to them and to get away when I am stuck in a corner. I have that experience.”

With the Asian and Commonwealth Games looming, the hope is for this to translate into more success.