You can make anything by writing – CS Lewis
Looking at Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom’s small stature nobody will believe what she has achieved so much in her career as a boxer. Believe it or not, she also thinks that she would have been a singer if not a boxer. Surprisingly she is the only woman boxer to qualify for Olympics from the second largest populated country, along with seven male boxers. For first time in Olympics history women boxing category is included in this mega event. “For so long I have dreamed for Olympics, my ultimate dream is Olympic gold medal. And depending on the performance in London I will my plan my career, whether to continue playing or not,” says the pugilist who is in 51 kg category.
Mary Kom is from a small state Manipur in north eastern part of India. Though she was good in sports but she never thought of playing this male dominated game. But one day she show another Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh being given hero welcome after winning gold in Asian game (1998 Bangkok) and that changed her life. She went on to enroll herself in Sports Authority of India without telling her family. But she couldn’t keep the secret for long, “It was when I won my first State Level Gold Medal in 2000, where I was also declared the Best Boxer and my picture was all over the newspaper.” In such a short span of time she learned the tricks of the trade and that’s what we call born-talented. Initially her family was totally against it as this will bruised her face, which will make hard to find a suitable husband for her. Slowly thing changed when she started winning her games and rest is history.
She is also rightly called Magnificent Mary, after all five world championships (2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010), more then three Asians and eleven Nationals is something that doesn’t happen everyday in sporting history. Her achievement in the world of boxing is acknowledged with Arjuna Award in 2003, which made her the first women to do so. Then the Padma Shri Award (2005) and the Indian highest sport honor Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2009.
In her fairy tale like story, Mary also meets her prince charming K. Onler Kom in Delhi and got married in 2005 in Manipur Baptist Convention Church in Imphal. At this point people thought that it was the end of the career when she gave birth to twins in 2007. She went on to prove everybody wrong by winning her fourth championship. Rather it brought stability and maturity in her life and boxing. “I have twin sons, Rengpa and Nainai, they are everything to me. I give my maximum time to my family and my children when ever I am home with them. When ever I get time, I became full time house wife and help my children in their studies and take them for outing on school off days.” But she knows that because of her career she is not with them most the time, “My husband fills all the gaps, and never gives me a chance to get stressed when I have to make a choice on any of my personal responsibilities and my career,” says the concern wife and the mother. Recently one of her son had to undergo a heart surgery in Chandigarh and she was fighting out in China for Asian Cup. “It was indeed a tough call but at the end everything is fine. She won the gold and also operation was successful,” says the caring husband.
Now that everything is sort out on the family front, there is no stopping, all her focus is on London Olympics gold. She is practicing along the male boxers in Pune under the guidance foreign coach Charles Atkinson. “There will be nothing very special, I just need to maintain my physical fitness and what can be better then sparing with the boys. Then identify my weaknesses in the past bouts and deal with it to fix them,” seems to be a simple but the right plan. One thing about her, the moment she enters in the ring there is a total transformation. She is not the coy and smiling Mary but bloody Mary. Her opponent never knows which thundering arm is coming, is really fast. “Each bout in my career was not easy and had to deal with them seriously. It doesn’t matter which tournament and whom you are playing, it just a matter of one good punch. That’s it, game over! Every time before entering the ring I say a prayer to God to help and all I want is to win and win.”
This world champion knows that won’t she be playing all her life; she is on the route to pass on her legacy. She has started a boxing academy back home. “It was setup basically to help young talented boxers from rural and poor family. It has both residential and non-residential students. We provide free food and lodging for residential students. The criteria are just that they should be in the age group of 12 to 21 years. Then we see to their physical structures, features and also have to undergo a motor ability test and skills test.” Introspecting why such a big country is not able to produce champions, “Though talented potentials are born in this land, we are technically behind from other countries. We need to upgrade our facilities and need to join hands, avoid division and discrimination, promote free and fair atmosphere.” And to all the young girls who want to take up boxing seriously, “Competition in boxing has become very tough, unless you aim and give double the efforts of your fellows, you cannot excel. So be determined in your endeavor, work hard, your effort will get paid off. Honor yourself for being a woman.”
After all what she has achieved, she is still not much known in this cricket frenzy country and that’s why once she said how many more World Championship she has to win to be known and get the appreciation which was due to her. One wonders how she would be if only she was playing for some other country. It was her association with the organization ‘Quest for Gold’ that brought her some decent sponsorship and help. “Things have become so normal now. I think discrimination is something which will always exist as long as mankind exists. I think I am much better of now then initially but still people don’t know me in the market place or when I go meeting big companies.” We hope that more people will come to know of her with the movie which is the process, in which Rani Mukherjee will in act her. After all we Indians love our Bollywood movies. “I don’t know much about it and it is not confirmed yet. But one thing I am sure is that with Olympic gold things will surely change for me,” hopes the champ.
(Published in Society July ’12, Page No. 40)