Home favourite Nicola Adams confirmed the bronze medal for Mary Kom as she beat the five-time world champion 11-6 in the semifinals of the women’s boxing flyweight (51kg) in front of a vibrant crowd at the ExCel Arena on Wednesday.

“The whole country was wishing me luck and praying for me. I am very sorry. I couldn’t come with the gold. But, I am happy that at least I have won an Olympic medal for which I have been dreaming about for so many years,” said the 29-year-old Mary who had given a better fight to the Briton during the 11-13 quarterfinals defeat at the last world championship.

Better level

Although the mother of five-year-old twins felt that she had fought better in the third and fourth rounds, without getting commensuratescores, there was no doubt about the better level of Nicola and that she deserved the points that made the difference.

The 29-year-old Briton had the height, reach and speed to keep Mary at arm’s length most of the time. While Mary’s punches lacked the direction, Nicola was quite purposeful with her approach and landed clear punches, particularly a left upper-cut, to get the scores in her favour. It was indeed a gauging session in the first round of two minutes but the Briton took a 3-1 lead to set the pace for the bout. Nicola continued with the domination throughout, though the points trickled round by round, 2-1, 3-2, 3-2 in the second to fourth.

Mary lunged for her punches and went off balance most of the time, while failing to land them on target, and also ended up clinging on to the opponent as they do in wrestling, Nicola was superb with her feet and moved nicely into position to get her punches through.

A dream realised

Mary said that her mom was watching from the stands and revealed that she was generally scared and cried sometimes on watching the fight.

“After a long long time, the Olympics medal has come. It has been a dream. I did my best,” said Mary with her disarming grin.

Nicola, who had been quite cautious about her chances against Mary and did not want to take anything for granted, was understandably delighted to be one step away from the gold.

“I am absolutely over the moon and words cannot express how I am feeling’’, said Nicola.

“I have been training since I was 12 years old and to think I am nearly there now makes me so happy,” said the Briton.

World champion Ren Cancan of China, whom Mary had beaten on way to the gold in the last Asian championship, pipped Marlen Esparza of the US 10-8 to assert her status as the top seed.

Nicola said that she would continue with her routine for the final against the Chinese. “I am going to do everything exactly the same as normal and treat it like a regular tournament. But, hopefully the crowd will give me a boost and I can get that gold,” said the Briton.

IABF official’s praise

The secretary general of the Indian Amateur Boxing Federation (IABF), Brig. Muralidharan Raja, said that it was a fantastic performance byMary to land the first Olympic medal in women’s boxing for the country, despite being past her prime.

“Considering all the constraints, Mary could not have done anything more,” was the candid observation of Brig. Raja, a seasoned referee-judge himself as he conceded that it was a fair assessment of the bout.

There is no doubt that it has been an inspirational journey for Mary. She has set the bar high for married Indian women in sports and shown the world that if you had the will there was always a way to reach your dreams.

The Manipuri lady has become the third Indian woman, after Karnam Malleswari, who won the weightlifting bronze in Sydney, and badminton star Saina Nehwal here, in winning an Olympic bronze.

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