Mary Kom is a living legend and an amateur boxer from the state of Manipur, a small state in North-East India. She is also a Member of Parliament (M.P) of Rajya Sabha. Till date, she hold a world record for being a sixth time world champion in the history ofWorld’s Women Boxing Championship. She is a Padma Shri, Padma Vibhushan, Padma Bhushan and Rajhiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee. She is nicknamed as ‘Magnificent Mary’ for her magnificent performance in the field of women boxing. She is an inspiration for young athletes and especially for female athletes. As after her marriage in 2005, she broke the stereotype that married women especially mothers cannot become successful athletes. She is the epitome of Women Empowerment. She has been given the title ‘Meethoi Leima’ which literally means ‘exceptionally talented lady’ by the government of Manipur in a felicitation ceremony held at Khuman Lampak to felicitate the winning of a bronze medal in 2012 London Olympics.
Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom was born on 1st March, 1983 in Kangathei village in Churachandpur district of Manipur. She was the eldest of four children of Mangte Tonpa Kom and Mangte Akham Kom. Her parents were tenant farmers who worked in ‘jhum’ fields on the hills. Her grandmother named her ‘Chungneijang’ which means ‘prosperous’ in Kom tribe’s dialect in lite of view to bring prosperity in their family. Well! Indeed, she brought prosperity for her family and of course for the nation by winning fame and laurels. Ever since from her childhood she had the passion for sports. She played sports item like hockey, football and athletics. However, the thrill, love and the passion for boxing was inspired to her by Ngangom Dinku Singh, a Padma Shri and Arjuna awardee Indian boxer from Manipur. After her graduation from Churachandpur College in her hometown, she moved to Imphal, the capital of Manipur to train in athletics. Initially, she hid it from her parents as boxing was not considered as a womanly sport. The early life of her boxing career was endowed with disregards and failures. But, since she was not among those who would easily give up, she shines like a star today.
Mary Kom started her training from the Sports Authority of India (SAI) branch in Manipur. Initially, she did not have interest in boxing. She used to play javelin, football and athletics but it was the success of N. Dinku Singh in 2000 Asian Games that inspired her to switch from athletics to boxing. After she shifted to boxing from athletics she met her first coach K. Kosana Meitei, a senior coach at the Sports Authority of India. She got her first training from the said coach. Thereafter, she was trained under M. Narjit Singh, the Manipur State Boxing Coach at Khuman Lampak in Imphal. Earlier, she kept her interest in boxing a secret from her father and secretly went for training at Imphal. After rigorous and sincere training for several months she won a gold medal back in 2000 state level boxing championship and her photo was appeared in a local newspaper. With this win marked a new chapter in her boxing career. Mary won the support of her father, who was convinced by her love, sincerity and strong determination in her pursuits in boxing. In 2005, she got married to Karong Onler Kom and became a mother of two children and took a short break in her training. With full support and coordination from her husband she again started her training but this time with new hope and challenge. She wanted to break the stereotype that women especially mothers cannot become successful athletes. However, she proved everyone who hold the belief after her achievements at various national and international levels. Her hardwork, persistence, sincerity and a never dying spirit made her a best boxer.
She had achieved numerous worth mentioning and truly deserving achievements in her boxing career. She received much love and fame when she consecutively became a sixth time world champion at AIBA World’s Women Boxing Championship held in 2002 (Antalya, Turkey), 2005(Podolsk, Russia), 2006(New Delhi, India), 2008(Ningbo City, China), 2010(Bridgetown, Barbados) and 2018(Delhi, India) respectively in the Lightweight and Flyweight category. She also had won many medals at various national and international levels. In the 2012 London Olympics she won a bronze medal. Winning an Olympic gold medal is her biggest dream.
Today, Mary Kom is a world icon and she had inspired many others like how she was inspired by Dinku Singh. She had created a history by being the world’s most record holder in boxing. A lady like Mary is precious like a gem and the whole nation is proud to have her. She is an epitome of women empowerment. She broke all stereotypes and limitations for a women sportsperson. The whole world have acknowledged her work and has even produced a film based on her and her role was played by Bollywood actress Priyanka Chopra. Last but not the least, she proved the saying ‘when there’s a will, there’s a way.’
By THANGJAM PINKY CHANU, IMPHAL