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Manipur's Golden Girl, India's Pride

 An Ode to MC Mary Kom

By Pradyut Hande

The competitive realms of sport often witness the emergence of certain personalities that do a lot more than just dominate their respective disciplines. In their quest for excellence and glory, they walk the path less travelled by, leaving behind an astounding legacy and a lot more. Star Indian Pugilist, MC Mary Kom is one such sports person who has defied all odds to blaze a trail all of her own, emerging as an unlikely sporting icon.

In a country with a weak sporting history; often force fed on the staple diet of the de facto National Sport, Cricket; genuine world class sporting heroes are hard to come by. Let's face it, at the cost of sounding harsh, apart from our glorious Hockey heritage (that's all that is left of it as of now, unfortunately), cricketing success and the odd Tennis, Golf or Shooting exploits; we aren't exactly the epitome of a nation with an inspiring sporting culture. Set in this backdrop, a feisty Manipuri woman picked up a well worn pair of boxing gloves and jumped into the ring; defying tradition, family, customs, stereotypes and what have you...

Suffice to say, MC Mary Kom took to the boxing ring like fish to water. Her rapid ascendancy as an Amateur Boxer on first the domestic stage and then subsequently the international arena was quite stunning. Her perseverance, grit, attitude and continual endeavor to improve soon saw her become a World Champion. But never one to rest on her laurels; "Magnificent" Mary went on to clinch four more World Titles; leaving flummoxed and battered opponents in her wake. Slowly but steadily, Mary Kom made the country sit up and take note of her talent, prowess and incredible exploits. Was she for real? How did we manage to produce a multiple World Champion? Wow!

A Commonwealth Games medal followed. Mary Kom was riding the crests of success and adulation; deservedly so. With Women's boxing making its debut at the London Olympics, 2012; she was being touted as a real medal hope in the 51 kg category. As the prestigious Games drew nearer, Mary Kom relegated all the hype, pressure, expectations and distractions to the back-burner; as she trained with ferocious tenacity, unwavering focus and unparalleled passion. She gained muscle mass to compete in the 51 kg category, moving up from her customary 48 kg division. In between all her training and tournaments, she found the time to be a home maker and a doting mother to her young twin sons. A billion dreams rode on her sturdy shoulders. Did that make her crumble? That would be an emphatic "No!" Mary Kom took everything in her stride and instead chose to focus on her preparation rather than the eventual culmination of her efforts.

India's pride MC Mary Kom with her Olympic bronze
The London Games, 2012 arrived. Mary Kom took to the ring amidst sizable Indian support at the intimidating Excel Arena. The diminutive Manipuri out punched, out jabbed, out thought and out performed her opponents to clinch a fantastic Bronze Medal; falling to the eventual Gold Medalist in England's Nicola Adams in a keenly contested Semi Final bout. She may not have struck Gold, but her medal certainly was more than its weight in Gold as the country hailed her spirit and accomplishment. Always one to set high standards, a dejected Mary Kom's first words in public after her defeat was a heartfelt apology for being unable to bring back the Gold. Here was an Olympic Champion at the peak of her career...a world class athlete par excellence with a sterling record...apologizing to her nation for letting them down. Her humility, passion for the sport and her country and her remarkable determination to excel shone through and through.

Her Medal and myriad accomplishments have done a lot more than bring glory to India. She has continued the legacy of competent boxers emerging from the North East. She has single handedly altered the perception of the demure, subjugated Manipuri woman. In fact, she has become an inspiration to an entire generation of young girls across the country from similar backgrounds to take up the sport. The impact of her feats is far reaching and quite astounding. Her amiable demeanor and off field persona have added to her aura (Yes! Aura!)

A Boxer, Athlete, World Champion, Olympic Medalist, Icon, Daughter, Wife, Mother and Sister; she's all that and a lot more! Take a bow MC Mary Kom...India's "Million Dollar Baby"!

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Pradyut Hande
The Writer is a Business student with a degree from NMIMS, Mumbai. He is presently working as a Senior Executive with a leading Public Relations firm in Mumbai. He has over 200 publications to his credit in some of the leading national dailies and weekly magazines across the country. He is also a keen Debater, Munner, Quizzer, Painter and Amateur Freestyle Rapper. His other interests include Sports, Music, Reading, Travelling and Social Entrepreneurship


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