If you are moving on the streets of Manipur and happen to see a docile-looking, 5-foot-2-inch lady, weighing less than 50 kg and moving around with three children, it would be safe not to cross her path the wrong way. For all you know, she may be Padma Bhushan Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom who may box you out of your wits in minutes and who has the unique distinction of being an Amateur Boxing World Champion for the sixth consecutive time. The story of magnificent Mary is of yet another lady who has risen from the rags to take the sports world by storm.
Over the last few issues, regular readers of THE TEENAGER TODAY would have read about female sports personalities like Hima Das and Pratima Sherpa who have struggled against the various adversities of life to shine in the international arena. However, Mary Kom’s story has a little more sauce to make it read more like a fairy tale. Never since Margaret Court on the tennis courts has any woman sports person come back so strongly after her marriage as in the case of Mary, after having mothered three children; the first two being twins. The only time Mary Kom lost a bout at the AIBA Women’s World Championships was way back in 2001 when as an 18-year-old she lost in the finals to end as runner-up. Since 2002, over a period of 16 years, the boxing ring at the Women’s Amateur World Championships has been her monopoly over the six World Championships conducted in her weight category. In short, she has been a medal winner in all the seven World Championships held till date.
Mary Kom’s story is yet another of one coming up from a poor farmer’s family but the twist in the story is that she took to a sport that, at least in India, is hardly ever associated with the fairer sex. There is always the danger of getting permanent bruise marks that would interfere with getting a good matrimonial match! So if Mary’s father, M. Tonpu Kom, had any apprehension of Mary taking to boxing, it was definitely not ill-founded but a father’s genuine concern. Having participated in various sports in her school and college days, Mary kept her boxing ventures a closely-guarded secret from her parents with the intention of supporting her family financially, until she won the State Championship in her maiden appearance and her photograph in the newspapers let the cat out of the bag!
A final approval from her father was all that was required to give India its best-ever boxer in boxing history. There was no looking back for the young Mary Kom. It was after Dinko Singh’s winning a gold medal at the Bangkok Asian Games in 1998 that boxing got a sudden impetus in the state of Manipur and Mary Kom turned out to be its biggest beneficiary.