Magnificent Mary

S. SUBRAMANIUM

“My next target is to win a medal in the 2012 London Olympics. After that I will retire,” says Mary Kom. By Y. B. Sarangi.

Two years ago, a few Manipuri students were trying to invite the media to a function at a park in the Delhi University campus to felicitate one of their state-mates. They only managed to get a couple of reporters from the print media and an identical number from the television channels. There were barely 20 people at the venue when the function to honour M. C. Mary Kom began. Mary Kom had just won her fourth consecutive World women's boxing title in Ningbo City, China.

This time, however, hours after Mary's arrival in Delhi after winning her fifth back-to-back World Championship gold medal in Barbados, a function organised in her honour at a five-star hotel in the heart of New Delhi was overcrowded with media persons.

Despite fatigue owing to jetlag and the intense competition she faced at the World Championships, Mary patiently answered each and every question posed by the journalists for nearly two hours.

One of Mary's great qualities has been her strong will power. Whether it's her return to the ring after motherhood or her comeback after the loss in the final of the Asian Championship in Guwahati two years ago, Mary's resolve has been tremendous.

“After her defeat in the Asian Championship, everyone said her career was as good as over. But she vowed to win the World Championship again, and she did it (in China) because of her determination and strong will power,” said the Indian Boxing Federation (IBF) Secretary-General, Col. P. K. Muralidharan Raja.

“No one can emulate the feat of ‘Magnificent Mary,' the only boxer to have won a medal in all the six editions of the World Championship so far,” he added.

Mary was overwhelmed by the warmth she received after winning her fifth World title. “It was phenomenal this time — from my family to my sponsor to the Manipur Government, everybody was so excited,” she said.

“It was the most convincing win. Maybe that happened due to my experience, which helped me change my strategy even during a bout. Of course, knowing the opponent in the final (Romania's Duta Steluta, who I defeated for the third time in a row) was of help,” Mary explained.

What is it that motivates her to keep on fighting and winning World titles again and again?

“It is all the people who are around me — my husband, my sponsor, promoters etc. They keep on motivating me to excel,” Mary said.

However, she is not the one to hang on there forever. “My next target is to win a medal in the 2012 London Olympics. After that I will retire. So, you can say this was my last World Championship,” Mary said.

“After retirement, I will focus on my academy (M.C. Mary Kom Academy at Langol, Imphal) and will try to prepare another World champion like me,” she said.

Mary acknowledged the help extended by the CRPF, Indian Army, UNACCO Bank and the Sports Authority of India (SAI) to her academy.

On whether she wants her twin sons to take up boxing, a sport which has given her so much, the mother inside the tough athlete said a firm ‘no.' “Boxing is a very difficult sport, I do not want my kids to go through so much of hardship,” Mary said.

“Rather, I would like them to be tennis players. I, as a child, had the desire to play tennis, but could not do so as it was an expensive sport,” Mary added.

On her Olympic dream, the 27-year-old said she has to rise up to the challenges like gaining weight (to fight in a higher weight category) and maintaining her fitness. “The level of competition will go up by several notches in London, but I am not afraid of that,” Mary asserted.

Right now though, Mary's focus is on the Guangzhou Asian Games in November.