For Mary Kom, there are no boundaries. August 8, 2012, ExCel Arena, London was a historic day in her amazing career. She became the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal after losing her (51 kg) semifinal bout against Britain's world champion Nicola Adams. After five world championship gold medals and an Olympic bronze medal, what more can a mother of twins achieve? Sky remains the limit for the 31-year-old.
Soon after London, Mary's thoughts were on the Rio Games in 2016. Is she crazy? After all, age is not on her side and boxing is all about power and reflexes. "Don't count her out", said Mary's husband Onler, a man who wears the gloves outside the boxing ring. (Also read: Mary Kom joins fight against cancer and cardiac disease)
"She's got amazing mental strength. Mary wants to win an Olympic gold. Rio is not impossible," added Onler. In London, Mary, more accustomed to the 46 kg category, had to switch two weight categories to play the Olympics. "Hope they will have the 48 kg class in Brazil," said Onler. Â
Onler has been a pillar of strength for Mary. He has been a friend, mentor and guide ever since Mary started attending National Games and camps in Delhi and Patiala in early 2000. "Many in Delhi mistook Mary as a maid working in some household. Mary could be easily identified by her diminutive and north-eastern looks. No one realized that she was a world champion in the making," remembers Onler, who married Mary in 2005 after four years of courtship.
Today, Mary has entered the drawing room in almost every single Indian household. Her struggles in life and the road to the top have been captured in a movie named after her. The film, produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, has Priyanka Chopra in the lead. Mary indeed has been inspiration, no less than a Pele or Muhammad Ali, who have had movies made after them.
Mary can easily be called the queen of comebacks. Motherhood always gave her the extra punch to prove critics wrong. She dedicated her Olympic bronze to her twins, who were celebrating their fifth birthday. Mary came from a two-year break after the birth of her twins to clinch her fourth straight world championship gold in Ningbo City, China in 2008. The Amateur International Boxing Association immediately christened her "Magnificent Mary."
In July 2009, Mary Kom was honoured with India's highest sporting honour, the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. She received the Arjuna Award in 2003 and the Padmashree in 2006. Mary's five world amateur titles were reasons for the International Olympic Committee to include women's boxing in the London 2012 programme.
Within weeks of her Olympic medal, Mary was again in the family way. In July 2013, she was blessed with her third son, Prince Chungthanglen Kom. With a decent bank balance, a boxing academy in Imphal, a sizeable amount of endorsement deals and a job with the Manipur Police, life for the Koms was well secured. But you just can't keep Mary away from the ring. Someone who loves to defy odds, the Rio dream ignited again but she must take baby steps once again.
Mary gained weight during pregnancy. She weighed 75 kgs and post pregnancy, she was 65. Her first target was to qualify for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. This time weight was not an issue, her speed and power were. In May this year, Mary began her quest for glory. She underwent rigorous training for nearly four weeks and even had her coach Charles Atkinson fly down from Liverpool to oversee her programme. But Mary was beaten by a younger and fitter Pinki Jangra in the Patiala trials for Glasgow.
There was a tinge of bitterness in losing to Pinki, who went on win the 51 kg bronze in Glasgow. Mary felt the result was a bit unfair. But the record was set straight on August 27 when Mary defeated Pinki to qualify for the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea from September 19. Mary's experience of mixing aggression and caution over three tight rounds helped her prevail. More than revenge, the ticket to Asian Games put her back on the long road to Rio.
"I am very happy. A lot of hard work and sacrifice has gone into this. I am happy that I won this important match (versus Pinki). This was only possible because of all the love and support of all my fans and well-wishers in India," a jubilant Mary said.
Mary is no stranger to facing odds in life. When she began life as an athlete, the odds were stacked against her. "I love my God. Jesus loves me too. If you have a dream , live it," Mary said before the London Games. Today, Mary is up against odds again. But this time, they are of a different nature. To keep her fitness will be her biggest challenge. Never short on conviction and passion, Mary Kom will continue to occupy one corner of the ring for at least another two years.
Bhag Mary, Bhag!