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Mary gold

Mary gold
Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, the daughter of landless agricultural labourers had never dreamt of the success and stardom showered upon her now before she watched film Dragon- based on the life of martial arts legend Bruce Lee in 1993. The mother of three sons – seven-year-old twins Khupneivar (nicknamed Nainai) and Rechungvar, and one-year-old Prince – now has now won Gold medal in the 51kg weight category at the 17th Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea.

Mary Kom added another feather to her already well-adorned cap, becoming the first Indian woman boxer to clinch a gold medal in the Asian Games after a coming-from-behind win over Kazakhstan's Zhaina Shekerbekova in the flyweight final. The five-time world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist beat Shekerbekova 2-0 to improve on the bronze medal she won in the previous edition of the Games, where women boxers made their debut.

In the opening round, Mary Kom got 27 points with 9 a piece from all the three judges while her opponent was given perfect 10s. She made a quick comeback by taking the second round after two of the three judges ruled in favour of MC Mary Kom that she won by 29-28 to level the match. Mary Kom completely blew over her opponent in the third round riding on her famous left and right combination to win the third round 10-9 with all the judges favouring her. The match was spectators delight with the fury of punches flying around as Mary Kom took the gold medal home.

‘I am very happy to win my first gold medal in these (multi-discipline) Games. I have won a bronze in the last Asian Games, a bronze in the Olympics and now the gold. I have sacrificed my family life, left my kids behind and worked very hard,’ Mary Kom had said after the bout.

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.

Modest background bears magnificent Mary Kom

Mary Kom was born to a poor tribal family in Manipur’s Kangathei village. Her grandmother named her Chungneijang, which means ‘prosperous’ in the Kom tribe’s dialect. Between attending school, caring for her younger siblings and playing all kinds of sports including hockey, football and athletics (but not boxing), Mary Kom worked in the fields and helped her parents, both farm hands. Inspired by Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh’s gold at the 1998 Asian Games, Mary Kom moved to Imphal, the Manipur capital, to train in athletics. Dressed in torn, shabby clothes, the teenager approached coach K. Kosana Meitei at the Sports Authority of India there and asked to be given a chance. The coach remembers her practising punches late into the night, long after the others had gone to bed.

Chungneijang’s goal was simple: to lift her family out of poverty and live up to her name. Having managed that and more, and not content with her own success, 31-year-old Mary has, since 2007, been teaching boxing to underprivileged youth for free.

56-year-old Tonpa Kom, Mary Kom’s father was quoted saying as, ‘ Mary was the only one of our four children who enjoyed sports. Her coach saw her at an athletics competition in Moirang and told me that she had a future in sports. But I could not afford to send her to Imphal at that time. Several years later the Father at the St. Xaviers school where she studied also told me her future was in sports. I then scrimped and saved and finally sent her to Imphal.

Mary hid her boxing from her father initially and it was only when she started competing nationally that Tonpa came around. Now a room in the mansion is kept separate for Mary’s accomplishments. Shelves are stacked with trophies, medals, golden gloves, recognitions from the state and her own Kom community with etching of ‘our dearest daughter’. The walls are lined with photographs of her with celebrities, presidents and ministers. Paintings of Mary’s bouts gifted to her by fans and clubs and posters of Priyanka Chopra playing Mary crowd the little space left.

Biopic boosts Mary Kom’s confidence in the ring
Mary Kom’s grit and guts inspired filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali to produce a movie about her. It’s perhaps for the first time in the world that a biopic on a major sportsperson’s life has been made while the athlete is still active in the sporting arena. The biopic has further cemented Mary Kom’s celebrity status and made the boxer a household name across the country. At the Asian Games at Incheon Mary Kom returns to international competition after her Olympics triumph in 2012 and after giving birth to her third child in June last year. The biopic depicts the struggle behind achieving world glory and Mary Kom’s comeback after giving birth to twins. It ends with the national anthem being played in China after she won gold for the fourth time at the World Championships in 2008. Though Bhansali’s Mary Kom has released in 2014, the film stops at 2008.

Calling her ‘a true champ’, actress Priyanka Chopra congratulated her for winning the gold medal. ‘I am more proud than I have been for a very, very long time. I am proud to be in the country where Mary Kom belongs,’ Priyanka had said. Priyanka, 32, took to Twitter to express her happiness.

‘Yaaaaaay!!! Now that's called Woman Power! Mary Kom gets gold... Makes India Proud & shows us that we can achieve anything! (sic)’.

Guts & grits

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.’

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- Mary Kom, and Mary earlier said she was amused and taken by surprise when a producer had approached her about the movie.

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