What’s Mary’s secret behind her unwavering dedication to boxing, and her belief that sports other than cricket are gaining recognition, slowly but surely.
by Rashmi Menon
MANGTE Chungneijang Merykom aka Mary Kom is a legend in the boxing arena. The Manipuri pugilist, also known as Magnificent Mary – a title given by International Boxing Association – has been world boxing champion in the flyweight class for five successive years. The Padma Shree and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna awardee, did India proud by bagging a bronze medal at the London Olympics 2012, where women’s boxing made its debut.
Q. What kind of a student were you?
A. My favourite subject was Social Studies. I was a rank holder till Class 3! After that I concentrated on sports.
Q. Always inclined towards sports?
A. I am blessed with a reasonable athletic talent and was an athlete in school. My first sports prize was for 100 meters race in 1993, in Class 4.
Q. A teacher you remember most…
A. Peter Mizo Sir, who taught English. He was serious and strict.
Q. What made you become a boxer?
A. After watching boxer Dingko Singh’s performance at Asian Games, Bangkok. He won gold. It was the defining moment. I was 15 and enjoyed sports more than anything else. That performance changed my life and inspired me to follow boxing.
Q. What do you love about boxing?
A. Everything! I am swift by nature, and since the game demands it, I enjoy the sport.
Q. And your first bout…
A. It was in 2000. I was 17 and couldn’t wait to compete in the ring before the spectators. I won the bout, and got a medal and a certificate.
Q. How long do you train?
A. It varies from bout to bout and tournament to tournament. For the Olympics, I put in close to 10 hours every day; it includes honing technical aspects, bouts and physical training to improve stamina and strength.
Q. What is your typical day like?
A. Wake up at 6 a.m., get ready for the morning session from 7 a.m., till noon. Then lunch and rest. Evening session is from 3 to 7 p.m. Then dinner and a little rest. Before winding up for the day, I prefer to walk, jog or do light weights.
Q. How tough was it to establish yourself on the international arena?
A. I struggled a lot to come up to this level but I also cherish the experience. It seems to be more difficult to maintain the status I have made in boxing, now.
Q. Your tips to aspiring sportsmen?
A. If you are good enough, and especially if people who matter tell you that you are good enough, you must follow that sport. Financially, the landscape is changing; people are managing to make a reasonable living in sports other than cricket. As time goes on, other sports disciplines too will find a larger share of the revenue pie, making it a viable and earning career choice, even in the perspective of a reluctant parent.
(Mary Kom interview, published on September, 2012, in Careers360 magazine)