Tokyo Olympics 2020: Mary Kom, the daughter of India

Magnificent Mary ruled the ring on her terms, fighting not to survive, but to thrive in a field that is said to be the domain of men.

India's Mary Kom reacts after her bout against Ingrit Valencia of Columbia in Tokyo on Thursday.   -  PTI

The fight is always the truth in a boxing ring. Give a punch. Take a punch. At the end of it, one arm rises to signal the winner, followed by a hug that buries the acrimony and the memories of the bout. Boxing is a life lesson. And M.C. Mary Kom exemplified it throughout her 20-year-old glittering international career that began from her World Championships debut in 2001. She collected six World titles and a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics.

Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom. The face of women’s boxing in India. Not a scar on the face to give away her vocation. She ruled the ring on her terms, fighting not to survive, but to thrive in a field that is said to be the domain of men. The Alis and the Tysons. For us, Mary was a sweet advertisement of woman power. She is a mother of three, a Parliamentarian, who misses attendance only when she is at a boxing camp or a competition, and a top boxer, whose sharpness and agility are rolled into one.

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When she was unknown to the world of boxing, Mary would rise before the sun, sprinting in and around her village in Manipur even as it was dark, shadow boxing, and then easing into a session of fierce sparring. It was determination. It was dedication. It was discipline. And it was also devotion to a sport that she pursued by defying the social norms. She was born to box.

To be honest, she was not the swiftest. Nor a nimble-footed mover in the ring. But she could read the movements of the opponent in a flash. In boxing that matters the most. How you move away from the opponent’s line of attack and how you follow the instructions of your brain to corner the combatant. She was good. And it came to her naturally. The instincts of a woman when cornered would propel Mary into a position of strength.

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Mary was clear about her duty in the ring. Her biggest strength was willpower. It is said that she believed she was alone in the ring, trying to beat the opponent by raising her benchmark. The fans roared from the stands but she was in her world. They don’t fight for you. And she knew that well. Nothing would rattle her. Nothing. There were moments when the audience would feel the pain as her body took the punishment. She, more than often, climbed back from the brink.

They lined up to see her train. Her colleagues were in awe. Her tenacity and resilience kept pushing her hard, not missing any training sessions. She combined work and home so delicately, not allowing one sphere to intrude into the other. At 38, she was the force that drove the younger lot to dream big.

Mary went to Tokyo to fulfil her dream of winning an Olympic gold medal. She had all sorts of yellow metal except this variety.

Her presence was intimidating and her aura preceded her. But she was past her prime. She was now fighting to survive. She was not the Mary Kom of yore as she lost 2-3 to Ingrit Valencia of Columbia in the 51 kg category. The iconic boxer walked off the stage with her head held high, leaving some of us moist-eyed.

A down-to-earth champion, Mary loves boxing. And boxing loves her too. There is a strong bonding between them and one can expect it to continue. Mary has promised to give the nation a champion. We wait for that moment and bow to this great daughter of India.

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