2014 will be a memorial year in the life of boxer Mary Kom – a movie based on her life and career, already the subject of worldwide curiosity and great expectations, will be released.
It is probably the first such movie on the life of a female sportsperson – that too a boxer! The movie is directed by Omang Kumar and made by Sanjay Leela Bhansali based on a screenplay by Saiwyn Quadras. Top Bollywood star Priyanka Chopra plays the role of Mary Kom and has been quoted saying that ‘she would have done the film free’ for the pride of playing the role! The film premiers on 05 September 5 2014 at the Toronto International Film Festival 2014!
But unknown to most Indians, some outstanding people from these states have won international honours for India in recent times. One among them is Mary Kom, who represented India in the Women’s Boxing Championship event at the London Olympics.
Mary Kom – dressed in a short slim-line skirt and a tee – you can hardly visualise her as India’s international boxing champion. You are in for a greater surprise when you see her cuddling her two children at home in Manipur. M C Mary Kom – also known as Mangte Chungneijang – qualified to represent India in the London Olympics where for the first time, the Women’s World Boxing Championship was included as an event. Mary was the only qualifier from India to participate in this event. By this honour, Mary came a long way after winning the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratan Award in 2009! She earlier won the Arjuna Award and the Padmashri from the Government of India.
Let alone knowing about the lifestyle of the people of Manipur, most Indians don’t even have much information about the State of Manipur, one among India’s enigmatic north-eastern states which are given the attractive name of ‘seven sisters’ – or perhaps ‘eight sisters’ if we add Sikkim to the group. These seven states in north-eastern India are Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, Nagaland, Manipur and Mizoram. With their unique landscape of forested mountains, lush plains and riverbanks, these states are considered exotic; more so because of the colourful tribes and clusters of ethnic communities that live here.
But unknown to most Indians, some outstanding people from these states have won international honours for India in recent times. One among them is Mary Kom, who represented India in the Women’s Boxing Championship event at the London Olympics. Mary is proud to have brought honour to India and says excitedly, “I hope I can inspire more women to follow me on this difficult path. More women in this sport will make the sports ministry and the federations of boxing offer more facilities to women.” Mary participated in the 51kg. category for the first time as she won her world title earlier at 48kg. “I was not nervous,” says the petite mother of two, “I was ready for this test as I have worked hard to get here. I pray that once inside the ring in any event in the future, I get a fair deal and an equal chance to win the event.”
M C Mary Kom, the international woman boxing champion who received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratan Award for 2009 entered the ring for the first time when she was 17! She is now in her thirties. Mary has been trained by Olympic Gold Quest and despite the two year leave she took to get married and have her twin babies, she returned to the ring to win more world championships! Mary also manages her boxing academy with her husband Onler Kom in Manipur even as she looks after her home and twin boys. Interestingly, Mary does not want the boys to take up boxing when they grow up.
When you look at her young, smiling face and diminutive stature, you wonder how such a delicate woman could ever think of entering the boxing ring. But Mary is one of two Manipuri boxers who took part in the 4th World Women’s Boxing Championships in 2006 and won the gold medal in their respective categories. M C Mary Kom held the World Championship while her compatriot, L Sarita won the gold medal. Mary’s triumph was more noticeable because she was the captain of the successful women’s boxing team whose members came from Manipur and Mizoram. Mary has held the title for four years from then and won the honour in 2009 again. Both women from Manipur are working in the police department as sub inspectors. Mary however, has been hoping to get an appointment in the youth affairs and sports department of the state, as an assistant deputy director of training and coaching. Staff members from this department have been cheering Mary in her boxing competitions.
“I hope I can inspire more women to follow me on this difficult path. More women in this sport will make the sports ministry and the federations of boxing offer more facilities to women.”
The story of how a small town girl like Mary Kom became the women’s international boxing champion four times and qualified for the Olympics, is particularly interesting. Born in a poor family in Manipur, Mary went to the Loktak Christian Model School and the St. Xavier’s School at Moirang, Manipur. But more than studies, athletics – particularly boxing – attracted her. Working hard for five arduous years, Mary survived almost lethal blows from her opponents to finally win the 3rd Women’s Boxing Championship at Podolsk, Moscow in 2005. When Mary failed her HSLC examination, she automatically turned to boxing, her favourite sport. Seeing her talent and tenacity for learning, three coaches – Ibomcha, Narjit and Kishen – began coaching her. Further, Khoibi Salam, the Indian Olympic Association official in Manipur, supported her strongly and encouraged her to pursue her ambition. Mary mastered the sport and surpassed the expectations of all her coaches.
Ever since she won the state championship for boxing in 2000, she has never looked back. She developed an infallible killer instinct and won medal after medal winning five back-to-back National Championships from 2000 to 2005. Soon she won 3rd Asian Championship in Taiwan. Thereafter, triumphs came her way one after the other. She won the Women’s World Boxing Championship in Turkey, the Women’s World Boxing Championship in Norway as well as in Hungary. Since then, it has been a ‘gold rush’ in the life of a poor girl who had to fight for food and basic needs in her childhood.
“I think attitude is what counts,” says the delicately-built 46kg smiling champ, “I did not give up even after several set-backs. My Church, family and community have supported me completely, giving me everything I needed for the matches including funds and equipment. I was literally like David going to battle with the Goliaths of the world. But I never lost my spirit and the desire to succeed.”
When Mary won the International Women’s Boxing Championship in the 46kg category in Moscow in 2009, she became a national sports celebrity. If a football stadium has been named after the famous Bhaichand Bhutia, Mary Kom’s name too, has been given to an approach road to the Games Village in Manipur by the state government, which has also gifted a new home to her. Additionally, the Tatas have offered her a contract job to provide her with a reasonable livelihood. Mary is an outstanding example to sportswomen in India because she works out for five to six hours every day, has the complete support of her husband and her family.
“I did not give up even after several set-backs. My Church, family and community have supported me completely, giving me everything I needed for the matches including funds and equipment. I was literally like David going to battle with the Goliaths of the world. But I never lost my spirit and the desire to succeed.”
She has proved that a woman can shine in the difficult game of boxing in the international sports-world. By qualifying for the Olympics – and earlier the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratan Award, Arjuna Award and Padmashri – she has set a shining example to all Indian women. A devout Christian, Mary believes that prayers and the support of her family and church community have contributed greatly to her success. Now nick-named the “Queen of the Ring”, Mary is now a famous celebrity not only in Manipur, but all over India and has won everyone’s admiration!