Mary Kom's Olympic journey comes to an end after Tokyo 2020 exit

Mary Kom, 38, featuring in her second Games, lost 2-3 to Colombia's Ingrit Valencia. Kom's Olympic journey comes to an end after Olympics 2020 exit.

Mary Kom of India reacts after her fight against Ingrit Valencia of Colombia.   -  REUTERS

A smiling M. C. Mary Kom raised her hand in celebration at the end of her 51kg pre-quarterfinal bout against Ingrit Valencia. It was only later, while skimming through social media, did Mary finally realise that her Tokyo 2020 Olympic journey was over -- the referee had declared her Colombian opponent the winner in a 3-2 split verdict.

The six-time world champion and London Olympics bronze medallist was left shellshocked. The 38-year-old seemed to have done enough to keep her Olympics dream alive, but the judges were not convinced.

Mary was upset with the verdict later and told journalists that she had no inkling of her loss. “The decision was very unfortunate. I thought it was a clear win for me and I came out and gave an interview and didn’t realise the decision had gone against me. I thought I will come back with the medal, but I don’t know what’s wrong. We can’t appeal as the organisers don’t have a provision for it this time. I still can’t believe that I’ve lost the match,” an emotionally distraught Mary said.

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Valencia took Mary by surprise, darting at her as soon as the bell rang and took the fight to the Indian in the opening round. Mary was content to take her time and gauge her opponent’s tactics, while Valencia was on the offensive. The Columbian won the round 4-1. Mary came back strong and threw some ferocious punches to pocket the second round. And despite winning the third round, the final ruling did not go her way.

“Can I have some water please?” she asked as she walked into the mixed zone, gasping for breath. “Split decision is just a name (term). Both of us didn’t fight in the first round. I tried to make out her game plan and strategy. There was no accuracy or strong punches from either of us,” she said, still unaware that she had lost.

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Mary, who sports a tattoo of the Cross on her right shoulder and the Olympics rings on her left, had won her earlier bout against Valencia and the duo had also shared a few sparring sessions during the Indian team’s pre-Olympics training camp in Italy. 

Raffaele Bergamasco – the foreign coach for Indian women boxers – was happy with the effort of his star pupil. “I am happy with her performance; she gave her best. I have a little preference for my boxer, but I feel Mary was the clear winner. But we will not be protesting the decision,” he said.

A last-minute jersey change because of the organisers’ objection did not upset her rhythm and Mary said: “I don’t know what was wrong with them. One official came and said Mary Kom should not be on your jersey, only your first name should be on your back. But I used the same jersey (with her full name) for the first bout. I was focussed on my fight only and was not distracted because of the issue with the jersey.”

The boxer from Manipur said she intended to go on despite the heartbreak.  “I have been fighting for 20 years. I’m a mother, I have four kids and have been fighting continuously and achieving much. I will play till I am 40,” she said.

The official age guidelines of the boxing federation will not allow her to participate in the next Olympics. The current age cap is set at 40 and Mary will be 41 by the time the Games come to Paris in 2024.

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