From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.32 :: NO.31 :: Aug. 01, 2009

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BOXING / FEATURE

Third time lucky?

World women’s boxing champion Mary Kom has been nominated for the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award. “It makes me feel like I’m on top of the world,” she says. By S. Sabanayakan.



M. C. Mary Kom after winning the gold at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship at Ningbo City, China,in November 2008.

It took nine arduou years for the tribal girl from Manipur to climb up to the pinnacle of sporting success. The person in question is none other than M. C. Mary Kom, four-time world women’s boxing champion and a leading nominee for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, the highest recognition for a sportsperson in India.

“I am indeed very lucky to get it (nomination for the Khel Ratna) in my third attempt,” gushed Mary Kom when contacted at her home in Imphal. “In fact, I was expecting the award to come my way last year but it didn’t. It was a crushing blow for me but my family stood by me to guide me through this most disappointing phase of my life. I wondered then, what more would I have to achieve to get the award,” she recalled.

“To me it seemed that three world championship titles were not sufficient and I was determined to get the fourth to prove my worth,” Mary Kom said.

“Returning to boxing after becoming a mother was not an easy task. The loss in the final at the Asian Championship in Guwahati in September 2008 enabled me to focus on the World Championship in November. The time was short, by at least a few months, but I made it up with hard work,” she pointed out.

“Yes, it feels great to be nominated for such a prestigious award. It makes me feel on top of the world; it makes me feel that I am special and my dream is almost coming true,” Mary Kom said.

“I am sure this (in case I win the award) will change the profile of women’s boxing in India. I have to thank my husband and children.”

The wiry boxer, expecting to be promoted as Deputy Superintendent in the Manipur Police Department, has achieved what not many even dare to dream of. She has already been conferred the Arjuna Award (2003) and the Padmashree (2005).

What is the secret of her success?

“My faith in God and the support of my husband, especially after the birth of my children, kept me going.”

Speaking of her success in the ring, Mary Kom said, “My ability to stay in the same weight group when others moved up in the weight class was of great help.”

She maintained a fitness regime most would shy away from. To stay in the 46kg weight category, year after year, Mary Kom ought to have lived a disciplined life: working out regularly and maintaining a strict control over her diet and training.

RITU RAJ KONWAR

Mary Kom (in blue) in action against Nazgul Boranbayeva of Kazakhstan in the quarterfinal (46kg) of the Asian Championship in Guwahati in September 2008.

“Such sacrifices only shape up a sportsperson’s career. I am one of those who realised these virtues very early in life,” she observed.

Mary Kom has been unbeaten in the World Championships ever since her loss in the final of the New York Worlds in 2001. In fact, she began her international career with a first round loss in the Asian Championship in 2001. Thereafter, she won four World Championship gold medals apart from a silver. In the Asian Championships, she has won two golds and a silver medal. Besides, she is also a six-time National champion in the 46kg and 48kg classes combined.

Mary Kom has one more dream — to win an Olympic gold medal. With the International Boxing Association (AIBA) actively canvassing for the inclusion of women’s boxing in the 2012 Olympics in London, Mary is of the view that time is not far away when one gets to see women box at the Olympics.

What are her chances of winning an Olympic medal?

“I wish I get a shot at an Olympic medal. The problem is only a few weight categories will be included in the Olympics. I am sure my weight class is unlikely to be considered. Even if they have 48kg, it will give me an opportunity to win an Olympic medal,” Mary Kom said.

Mary Kom has started a boxing school next to her home where she coaches a number of boys and girls. “Some of my trainees are ready to earn medals at the Nationals. But the biggest problem I face is lack of proper infrastructure in my academy,” she confessed.

Well, if she wins the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award, it may prove to be yet another turning point in her boxing career.



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