Magnificent Mary: on making history at World Boxing Championships

M.C. Mary Kom enhanced her already legendary status when she defeated Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in the 48 kg segment of the Women’s World Boxing Championship in Delhi on Saturday. It was her sixth gold across World Championships, drawing her level with Félix Savón, the Cuban great who ruled amateur boxing in the 1980s and 1990s. Kom has always defied the odds. She has busted gender stereotypes, and overcome the odds posed by the lack of resources and poor infrastructure that hold back so much athletic talent in India. In doing so, she firmed up Manipur’s place on India’s talent map, brought India on the world boxing landscape, and reinforced women’s sport by winning consistently with exceptional determination and grace. Kom, who is now 35 and a mother of three, has had a good 2018, winning her maiden Commonwealth Games gold medal earlier this year. She extended that form in Delhi and cemented her place in the history of the World Championships with an overall haul of seven medals, including a silver on debut in 2001. A bronze medallist at the 2012 London Olympics, Kom said that the latest of her six world titles, secured after a gap of eight years, was the toughest of them all. It has come at a time when the competition has risen manifold following the inclusion of women’s boxing as an event in the Olympics in 2012. Kom, who got past other strong opponents before clinching the bout against Okhota, also had to bear the additional pressure of the expectations of home crowds.

Watch: Mary Kom makes history at World Boxing Championships

In the event, the victory has fuelled further expectations from this late-career burst. Kom will switch to the 51 kg weight class in the pursuit of a medal at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. As a Rajya Sabha member of Parliament and idol for many upcoming women boxers, she has a full schedule, and will be aware that it will take all she has to fight with younger and stronger rivals in a higher weight category. Hailed as ‘Magnificent Mary’ by the International Boxing Association, which has chosen her as its representative in the International Olympic Committee athletes’ forum, Kom has been an inspiration globally. Her rise from a humble background to be an international role model has inspired a book and a Hindi movie chronicling her life. Raffaele Bergamasco, the India coach, sums up Kom’s legend with these words, “Mary in boxing is like Maradona in football.” The gender comparison is crucial too — at a time when the women’s competition at diverse levels and different sporting events is being sought to be placed on a par with the men’s, in terms of infrastructural support and remuneration, Mary Kom’s record will indeed give heart to all women athletes.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2022 3:50:53 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/magnificent-mary/article59780333.ece