India's M.C. Mary Kom punched her way to a historic gold medal on Wednesday. The world number five defeated Zhaina Shekerbekova of Kazakhstan to win her first gold in an Asian Games. This is India's seventh gold at Incheon, South Korea. (Day 12 Blog | Medal Tally)
Mary was at her magnificent best in the final bout of women's flyweight (48-51 kg) division. While Shekerbekova - six years her junior - looked to put up a stiff fight, 31-year-old Mary used a combination of right and left jabs to assert her superiority.
Shekerbekova made a good start winning the first round, but Mary used her greater experience to claw back. Mixing her punches, Mary won the next three rounds as the crowd egged her on every minute at the Seonhak Gymnasium in Incheon.
The 31-year-old 'Supermom' began a bit slowly - studying Shekerbekova's approach before unleashing all her fury against the Kazak. She banked on all her experience from 14 years of boxing and rushed to claim top honours in the event.
A five-time world champion, such was Mary's confidence ahead of the Asian Games that she had said she would settle for nothing less than a gold.
"Our preparation has been good so far and we are looking forward to the Games. I am definitely aiming for gold medal and a bronze will certainly not suffice this time," she had said days before leaving for Incheon. The determination was as much in her punches as was in her words.
Mary has come a long way since growing up as the child of an uneducated labourer in a Manipuri village, constantly being told not to take up boxing because it could ruin her looks.
Mary tried her hand at track and field before settling for boxing, inspired by the gold-medal winning feat of a fellow Manipuri, Dingko Singh, at the 1998 Asian Games in Bangkok. Her other childhood idols included the legendary Muhammad Ali and his boxer daughter Laila. "I realised women's boxing was a serious sport even if it was not taken seriously in India," she had earlier said.
Mary is one of India's most decorated women having won the country's highest sporting award, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, in 2009 followed by the third highest civilian award, the Padma Bhushan, in 2013. Appropriately, Mary's autobiography is titled, the "Unbreakable." (Bout was Fixed, says Sarita Devi's Husband After Controversial Exit in Boxing Semis)
To ensure the hardships she faced as a young boxer did not discourage others, she started the Mary Kom Boxing Academy in Manipur's capital Imphal. The academy provides free training to underprivileged children.
There is even a Bollywood movie based on her life and Mary earlier said she was amused and taken by surprise when a producer had approached her about the movie. Interestingly, Priyanka Chopra -- who plays her reel version in the biopic -- had wished her luck before her final Asian Games bout. (Related: Mary Kom Wants Priyanka Chopra as Boxing Academy's Brand Ambassador)