A Manipur-based sportswoman who made India proud with her glorious achievements, Mary Kom, popularly known as “Magnificent Mary”, was the only Indian woman boxer to qualify for the 2012 Summer Olympics. She bagged a Bronze Medal. Mary, a eight-time world amateur boxing champion, is surprisingly serene and philosophical about all her sterling achievements.
Mary Kom became a household name with a successful biopic on her in 2014 in which Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra essayed the role of India’s boxing legend.
Born on March 1, 1983, she was named as Mangte Chungneijang at birth. When she entered the world of professional sports, she adopted the name ‘Mary’ which was easier to pronounce and recall.
In her school days, Mary was extremely interested in playing different sports. She started by participating in various athletic competitions, like discus throw and shot-put. However, her biggest inspiration was Dingko Singh who won the gold medal in boxing in the 1998 Asian Games, prompting her to take up boxing gloves. Nevertheless, boxing something her parents, especially her father Tonpa Kom, did not like as it was seen as a ‘masculine’ sport. They tried to desist her but could not keep Mary away from her passion. Even other circumstances thereafter could not deter her from her chosen path.
Her first career win came in 2000 when she won the Best Boxer Award at the first state- level invitation at the women’s boxing championship in Manipur. After that sky was the limit. She proceeded to win gold in the Seventh East India Women’s Boxing Championship held in West Bengal.
Her first coach was K. Kosana Meitei, who taught her the basics of boxing. Later, she moved to the Sports Academy in the state capital Imphal. There she met state coach Narjit Singh who made a lasting impact on her career. Seeing his daughter’s photographs flashed in local newspapers after she won the gold medal at the State Boxing championship, Tonpa Kom decided to finally support her. Armed with this much-needed support now, Mary set out to conquer the world.
A prolific sportswoman who demonstrated an undying passion for the game, Mary won a string of five National Championships from 2000 to 2005. In 2008, she participated at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in India, winning a silver medal. The same year she boxed at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in China where she earned the gold medal—her fourth successive gold at the championship.
The coming years were also very productive for the determined young lady. If overcoming family resistance was hard, the glorious road to the Olympic Games in London was even harder.
In 2012, women’s boxing featured for the first time as an Olympic sport in the Summer Olympic held in London. Kom succeeded in securing a place at the events and won a bronze medal. In the 2014 Asian Games, held in Incheon, South Korea, she won a Gold Medal in Flyweight category.
By now, she had emerged as a women’s boxing legend in India. She scored a hat-trick of World Championship titles in 2006, sparking a public yearning that she be decorated with a Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna. However, a trio of gold medals at the highest level was insufficient to convince the jury.
She was again ignored in 2007 even after winning her fourth title at the Worlds. Apparently, the then Union Sports Minister, M.S Gill, played an instrumental role in helping her earn the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Ratna Award in 2009..
In 2018, at the age of 35, she became the oldest Indian boxer to win gold at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, a medal that had eluded her for so long.
After her Commonwealth Games triumph, Kom also expressed her eagerness to win gold at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics to end her illustrious career.
Mary Kom was decorated with the Padma Shri, India’s fourth highest civilian honour in 2010 for her contributions to sports, followed by a Padma Bhushan, the third highest civilian award in India, in 2013.
Kom is also as a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha fromApril 2016.
Mary is an active supporter of wild animals, and has been associated with animal rights organization, PETA India. She runs a boxing academy as well.
She lives in Imphal with her family.
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