MC Mary Kom needs no introduction. With five world titles, three Asian titles and eleven national titles under her belt, MC Mary Kom or “Magnificent Mary” (as described by AIBA, the International Boxing Association) is proof enough that impossible is nothing.
Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom was born into a poor Manipuri family. Despite a childhood full of hardships, Mary doesn’t wish for her formative years to have been any different. In fact, she is grateful for the tough life that she had to lead: “I am tough because of my background. It made me who I am today. It gave me the strength to keep fighting. Indeed, they made me want to fight in the first place.”
In 1998, boxer Dingko Singh, an Indian boxer born in Manipur, won a Gold at the Asian Games and made his motherland proud. Dingko Singh’s success inspired Mary Kom to take up boxing. However, since boxing is considered unsuitable for women by many, Mary Kom hid her passion and interest from her family. Mary traveled to Imphal and requested coach M Narjit Singh at Manipur State Boxing to train her. She was passionate about the sport and would often practice till late in the night even after the others had left. Her family came to know about her interest through a newspaper when she won the Manipur State Boxing championship in 2000.
At a time when women’s boxing was still unheard of, Mary followed her passion with relentless grit and determination, battling ridicule and pessimism.
Mary’s first career win came in 2000 when she won the Best Boxer Award at the First State Level Invitation at the women’s boxing championship in Manipur and won gold in the Seventh East India Women’s Boxing Championship held in West Bengal. Demonstrating relentless passion and perseverance, Mary went on to win five National Championships between 2000 and 2005.
Mary Kom started boxing at the international level at the age of 18, which is considered old by most standards. However, she did not lose faith. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream”.
Between 2002 and 2010, she won the gold medal in the Women’s World Amateur Boxing five times. However, it was 2012 that proved to be the year of reckoning for Mary Kom. It was the year of the Olympics and like every athlete, she dreamt of an Olympic medal. She aspired to win gold but had to settle for the bronze. “I am sorry I could not win gold,” said Mary Kom after the loss. She felt that she owed the nation more than a bronze. This statement does show that she believes in nothing but being the best.
Mary Kom has not given up hopes of an Olympic gold medal. She is still training hard and is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics with the dream of an Olympic gold medal.
For her contribution to sports, the Indian government bestowed her with a number of awards, including the Arjuna Award in 2003, Padma Shree in 2006 and Padma Bhushan in 2013. Today, Mary Kom is happily married and has three sons. Her accomplishments are remarkable, which is why Sanjay Leela Bhansali, an acclaimed film director, decided to make a movie on Mary Kom’s life.
Interesting Facts You May Not Know About Mary Kom
- Mary Kom’s parents were small farmers and worked under a landlord on a small patch of land in jhum field.
- Such was her passion for boxing that Mary Kom chose to take a sabbatical from her high school education and embrace boxing as her calling. She later adopted an alternative method to rejoin studies and eventually graduated from college.
- Initially, her family was not supportive of her decision to take up boxing, since it was not the conventional sport for women. Her father even went to the extent of scolding his daughter, when her win was featured in the local news.
- She is a supporter of animal rights and has been associated with animal rights organization, PETA India.
- Mary is the only female boxer to win a medal in six consecutive world championships
- She is the first Indian woman boxer to win a gold medal in the Asian Games.
- Mary Kom is the first amateur athlete to win the Padma Bhushan.
- She is an active member of the Sports Authority of India and is also the founder of the MC Mary Kom Boxing Academy in Manipur
- The famous Indian actor Priyanka Chopra plays her character in “Mary Kom”, a Bollywood movie based on her life.
Famous Mary Kom quotes:
- “I do not only rely on my technique or strength but also on my mind.”
- “If I, being a mother of two, can win a medal, so can you all. Take me as an example and don`t give up.”
- “In a sportsperson’s life, pressure is always there; you have to learn to deal with it.”
- “People used to say that boxing is for men and not for women and I thought I will show them someday. I promised myself and I proved myself.”
- “Without boxing, I can’t live. I love boxing”
- “Don’t give up, there is always a next time”