Mary Kom is easily India's best bet to win a gold medal at the London Olympics but the five-time world boxing champion is not taking things for granted. She knows that the transition from the 48-kg weight category to 51 kg has its pitfalls. A game trier, she says will certainly make a fight out of it.
A mother of two, the 29-year-old says that the Olympics will be tough as she has powerful opponents to box against in her new weight category.
After switching to her new weight category, Mary Kom won the gold at the 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games and that she says has given her enormous confidence and that she is now more comfortable fighting in the 51 kg division.
"I am comfortable in both 48 and 51 kg categories. The Olympics does not have the 48 kg and so I had to perforce change to 51. The boxers in 51kg category are bigger, taller and stronger. At first it was a little difficult, but with time I got used to it. Fighting in the new category at the Asian Games has given me a lot of confidence and now my target is to do well at the World Championships as well," Mary Kom told IANS in an interview.
Nothing came for Mary Kom for the asking. She had to struggle for everything, right from taking to boxing to get India's highest sporting honour Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. She is a sporting icon of the country, yet she feels she still does not get the recognition she deserves despite winning five gold and a medal at each of the six world championships and winning the Asian championships four times.
Not many care to refer her by her full name Mangte Chungneijang (MC) Mary Kom, just like few may remember her idol and inspiration, fellow-Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh, who rose and went down like a meteor.
The May 9-20 World Championship in Qinhuangdao, China, offers the Indian boxers their only chance to qualify for the London Games. Mary Kom will not only spearhead the Indian challenge, but will also be chasing her record sixth world title and first in her new weight category.
"I did a lot of hard-work, I have worked on my weaknesses and tried to sort out some of the glitches over the past year. This year the World Championships will be different. I like taking up new challenges and that is my driving force," she said.
Mary Kom attributes her success to British trainer Charles Atkinson. The 70-year-old was a guiding force behind the rise of Thai male boxers in the 1980s.
"It has been about a year since I have been training with Atkinson. He has made a huge difference to my fighting style. We concentrated on my strength, guard and combination and that reflected in my performance during the Asian Championships where opponents found it hard to get through my defence," she said.
Mary Kom said Atkinson has helped her a lot in every aspect of boxing.
"His tips have helped me to improve my attack and counter-attack tremendously. These may be subtle changes, but this is where the ifference between an Indian coach and a foreign lies. He has put me through a lot of innovative movements and boxing," she said.
Mary Kom, who recently beat Chinese opponent Ren Cancan to win a gold medal at the sixth Asian Women's Boxing Championship, thanked her sponsors Olympic Gold Quest and the sports ministry for all the support.
"Winning the Asian Games gold medal was a great achievement for me. My sponsors and the sports ministry helped me a lot. They provided me with all the training facilities and I want to thank them for that," Mary Kom said.
Mary Kom, however, said more government support is needed to boost Olympic sports in India.
"The sports ministry has done a lot to support the athletes, but if India has to become a major force at the Olympics, more needs to be done. I think they have realised that a lot more is needed to be done by way of providing greater facilities for athletes to train if India has to produce world beaters," she said.
Mary Kom hopes that India will do well at the London Olympics and expects the athletes to get a rich haul of medals.
"This year in London, I am expecting more gold medals as we have a chance of winning a medal in every weight category," she singed off.