M. C. Mary Kom elevated her star status by adding a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics to her rich collection of five world titles that she had gathered by then.
As women’s boxing made its debut at the London Games, Mary earned a podium finish in the 51kg weight category to become the first female boxer from India to land an Olympics medal.
Mary beat Karolina Michalczuk of Poland and Maroua Rahali of Tunisia to reach the semifinals and ensure a medal for herself. She was the third woman after weightlifter Karnam Malleswari (2000) and shuttler Saina Nehwal (2012) to claim an Olympic medal.
Remembering her feat in London, Mary said, “That moment is still very hard for me to describe in words and it motivates me to work harder so that I can live those moments again in Tokyo. The London Olympic medal changed my world and, most importantly, it changed women’s boxing in India forever. That gives me a lot of pride.
“The change in the perception of people towards women boxing has given opportunities to so many young girls of the country. Also, there is a lot more recognition and facilities for our boxers now.”
Nine years ago, Mary – who lost to British boxer and eventual champion Nicola Adams in the semifinals – was elated after cornering Olympics glory.
“After a long time, the Olympics medal has come. It has been a dream. I did my best,” she said. “The whole country was wishing me luck and praying for me. I am very sorry I couldn’t come with the gold. But I am happy that at least I have won an Olympic medal for which I have been dreaming for so many years.
“The bronze medal is very special to me because it is not easy to get an Olympic medal.”
Mary was overwhelmed by the welcome she received on her return to the country.
“I have won five world titles, but I have never seen anything like this. I am very excited. At the same time, I am scared to see such a gathering,” she said then.
The iconic boxer aimed at winning a gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, but was unable to qualify for the Games.
Having qualified for Tokyo, 38-year-old Mary, now a six-time world champion, is keen to take the top honour in her second Olympics appearance.
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