On her slight but assured shoulders held India’s boxing fortunes on the international plane and “Magnificent Mary’’, as Mary Kom came to be known lived up to her expectations.
A tribal talent from Manipur, she had won five world titles before she brought India its first boxing Olympic medal from a woman. The London Olympics feat was easily the brightest spot for boxing in India in the year. What was significant was that the man who had inspired a legion of boxing fans in the country after his medal-win in the previous Games in Beijing, Vijender Kumar could not repeat it this time.
The six others who joined him (Devendro Singh, Shiva Thapa, Jai Bhagvan, Manoj Kumar, Vikas Krishan Yadav, Sumit Sangwan) with high hopes in London too fell before medal contention.
To be fair to Devendro, it must be said he too like Vijender came close to making it but like the latter, fell at the quarterfinal stage. The consolation was that the boxing unit of the Indian delegation did not return empty handed, thanks to Mary.
But then months later boxing came into the news again for all the wrong reasons. In the wake of IOC’s suspension of the IOA came the next shock of suspension for the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation from the boxing’s international body over election irregularities. Even as boxing now turns a sample for the rot that has set into sports administration, what the nation and particularly boxing fans would hope at the turn of the new year will be that despite the administrative bungle, careers of boxers would continue to rise and bring laurels to the country.
Closer home, kabaddi, the native sport still raises vision of bringing good news for Indian sports. The highlight of the year for kabaddi was the victory in the men’s and women’s World Cup. The event, a Punjab government initiative, had 16 countries participating in its third year. Winner in the two earlier editions, India completed a hat-trick beating arch rival Pakistan in the final in Ludhiana.
The women’s competition, the first edition, held in March was organised by the Bihar government in Patna. In the 16-country event, India defeated Iran in the final.
Scaling new peaks
Squash is another sport that demanded attention. Ace player Dipika Pallikal kept scaling new peaks in her journey of excellence, finishing at rank 10 in the world. No Indian has achieved this till date. The year also saw Indian teams setting benchmarks. The women’s team won the fifth place in the world teams (not achieved earlier) after clinching the Asian title earlier in Kuwait. The junior boys won the third place in the world team event in Doha.
Among other sports, table tennis found a place for India in the Olympics thanks to Soumyajit Ghosh and Ankita Das. But both could not do much; Soumyajit crashing in the second round and Ankita in the first round.
Cue sport on the other hand a few distinctions. Aditya Mehta won the Asian snooker title while Pankaj, ever the champion, captured the Asian and world billiards titles. Another national champion Uma Devi too was not far behind when she annexed the world billiards title.
Thus went the year, a few flashes here and there but overall a fair effort to prop up Indian sports in general.