Even if you had seen the 48 kg category final clash of the Women’s Amateur Boxing World Championships at the K. D. Jadhav indoor stadium in New Delhi, you might not have realised that there was an age difference of 13 years between the two boxers plying their trade in the ring.
The one in blue was nimble on her feet and punched with consummate combinations of rights and lefts. The guard was on point and her agility was second to none. Her opponent, Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota, tried to match her punch for punch, but the 22-year-old did not have ample experience to trouble the wily Mary Kom. As it turned out, M. C. Mary Kom became the most successful pugilist in the history of the Women’s World Championships after winning by a unanimous 5-0 against Okhota. She broke her tie of five golds and one bronze with Ireland’s Katie Taylor and equalled Cuban men’s legend Felix Savon along the way.
‘What keeps people going?’ This is one question that has interested philosophers over centuries. Is it the desire to be in the limelight or to earn truckloads of money? But what about those who already have all of that and a lot more? What keeps them motivated?
“I am not finished yet,” was the resonant answer by Chungneijang Hmangte a.k.a. M. C. Mary Kom after she defeated Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi 5-0 in November 2017 to clinch her fifth gold in the Asian Women’s Boxing Championships. This never say die attitude is at the core of Mary’s work ethics. And this is what has prevented her from hanging up her boots, or her gloves rather.
Mary Kom has achieved all that is there to be achieved in the world of boxing. Her fight now is not for some medal or championship, it’s with herself.
The 35-year-old has won the prestigious Arjuna, Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Bhushan awards. The feisty Manipuri has also clinched the Asian Boxing championship five times to go along with her six world championships and an Olympic bronze.
Mary Kom is the mother of three kids. She is also a Rajya Sabha MP now and one that attends sessions at that. She has a book written and a movie made on her. Yet, the pugilist isn’t someone to rest on her laurels.
The Olympics doesn’t have a 48 kg category. This is the reason why she failed to qualify for Rio. Mary would be 37 at the time of the Tokyo Olympics but she still wants to give it a shot (in the 51 kg).
“I am a little bit emotional today. There is no (48 kg) weight category in the Olympic Games. Because of your love and support, I feel I will be able to qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Four years ago, I was not able to qualify for Rio. I am still suffering from that.
“I know it will be a bit difficult for me to win a gold in Tokyo as I will have to fight in 51 kg,” she tried to put her overwhelming emotions into words after the WC win.
Chungneijang Hmangte is one of the tallest sportspersons across the world. She is an icon and an inspiration for numerous young people to take up sports. Not just in sports, but in life as well, we must not only laud her but also try to imbibe her work ethic and perseverance.
The author is a post graduate in journalism