Article written by Riya Bhargava
“Tonpa, be anxious no more
Hard times have abandoned you
Good times lie in wait for you” – M.C. Mary Kom
Every medal is a story of struggle, says the invincible Boxing champion MC Mary Kom, who considers every win a very special one, despite all the various roles she has had to play outside the ring in the entire span of her life.
A well renowned Indian Olympic Boxer, Mary Kom is the only woman to become World Amateur Boxing Champion for a record six times, the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the first seven World Championships, and the only boxer (male or female) to win eight World Championship medals. Not only this, she is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics and winning the bronze medal. She became the first Indian woman boxer to get a Gold Medal in the Asian Games in 2014 held in South Korea and is the first Indian woman boxer to win gold at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. As the saying goes, a dream doesn’t become a reality through magic, it takes sweat, determination and hard work. And that is what Mary has abided by her whole life.
Born in 1983 in a poor family in Kangathei, Manipur, she is the first daughter of Shri M Tonpa Kom and Smt M Akham Kom for whom the only means of income was the jhum fields in which they worked. Mary helped her parents work in the fields, cutting woods, making charcoal and fishing. On the other hand, she spent a good time looking after her two younger sisters and a brother. Her family background speaks a lot about how Mary overcame hardship and inconveniences and created a name for herself in the arena of world boxing. As much as she was interested in sports since childhood, Mary took to sports in an effort to provide some financial support to her family.
It was the rise of Dingko Singh and the demonstration of women boxers at the 5th National Games (Manipur) that inspired Mary and triggered a revolution in Manipur to which not only Mary but many other girls were drawn to. Mary was a quick learner. “In just two weeks, I had learnt all the basics. I guess I had God-given talent for boxing,” she says. However, her taking up Boxing was not appreciated by her father. “I still remember I was castigated by my father who said with a battered and bruised face, I should not expect to get married. He was furious that I took to boxing – a taboo for women,” she recalls. Although later, her father was convinced when he saw his daughter doing what she loved, and succeeding magnificently.
At a tender age of 18, Mary made her debut at the first Women World Boxing Championship, and at her debut event itself, she won a silver medal in the 46 kg weight category. A year later, she went on to win the gold at the second Association Internationale de Boxe Amateur (AIBA) World Women’s Senior Boxing Championship, held at Antalya, Turkey.
Mary Kom is a mother of twin sons. In 2008, she came back from a two-year maternity break to clinch her fourth boxing gold in World championships. The family came to know of the problem in her son Khupneivar’s heart when he was four years old. After consulting with a doctor friend, Mary decided to have the procedure done at a hospital in Chandigarh, which was close to NIS, Patiala, where she had been training. Mary Kom fought Asian champion Kim Myong Sim in the title bout at the Asian Cup women’s boxing tournament in Haikou, China, where little Khupneivar cheered for mummy from his hospital bed in Chandigarh.
Mary always says, “Don’t give up as there is always a next time. Think that if Mary Kom, a mother of two, can do it, why can’t you?”
She is a recipient of the Arjuna Award, the Padma Shri Award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award and a special award from AIBA. An epitome of success, hard work and an inspiration to all the women, Mary Kom has overcome gender bias, poverty, the limitations of her small size, and the disadvantages of the small region to win the olympic medal for boxing.
It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up, and that is what Mary has shown to any and every obstacle that has come her way, boxing and beating it to win every battle successfully.