London: As women’s boxing prepares to make its Olympic debut in London in 2012, India’s flyweight star Mary Kom is confident of becoming the sport’s first Olympic gold medallist. The IOC decision in 2009 to include women’s boxing was a dream come true for India’s Mangte Chungneijang Merykom, otherwise known as Mary Kom, who has helped the sport achieve its Olympic ambition by demonstrating its global popularity with her success at the Women’s World Boxing Championships.
“At first I could not believe my ears,” says the five-time world champion when she thinks back to that momentous day in 2009. “But when it was confirmed I was so happy. I have won everything that could be won, but it was the Olympic gold medal that still eluded me. Now it’s a dream come true for me to get the chance to represent my nation at the Olympic Games when I am at the peak of my career.”
The five consecutive world titles speak volumes about Mary Kom’s grit, hard work and determination. Born into a family of farmers in a village in Manipur – a small state in north-eastern India – the 28-year-old learned to live with poverty from an early age.
“We were very poor and I used to help my parents in the field after coming back from school,” she recalls. “I used to bring firewood from the jungle, which was used for cooking food.”
Mary was an all-round athlete and excelled in local and school sports events. It was a burning passion and love for sports that pushed her to scale such heights and achieve what other women would not have even dreamed of.
In 1998, inspired by the Bangkok Asian Games success of Dingko Singh, another boxer from Manipur, Mary Kom secretly began training with a local boxing coach, without the knowledge of her father. One of her cousins was supportive of her endeavour and she helped her procure second-hand boxing gloves from a local market.
In between her successes on the world stage, Mary Kom has won many other national and international tournaments, including the Asian Indoor Games title in Hanoi in 2009, and most recently taking a gold medal at the Asian Cup Women’s Boxing event in China in May.
But what she is most looking forward to is the 2012 Olympic Games in London, for which she is leaving no stone unturned in her quest to bring home a gold medal for India, as she carries the hopes of a billion people on her shoulders.
“My aim is to win gold in London and I am training harder than ever,” she says. “I am aware of the billion hopes I am carrying. I can’t let the people of India down. What I am most looking forward to is to becoming the first woman boxer to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.”
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