On the 24th day of November 1982 (as given in her autobiography Unbreakable), a girl was born in a remote area in the north-eastern Indian state of Manipur. Who knew then, that she would grow up to become a five-time World Amateur Boxing Champion and win for India its first Olympic medal in Women’s Boxing? Let us look into the inspiring story of the famous Indian boxer, Mary Kom.
Where it all started
Mary was born in an economically backward family in Manipur. Her parents worked as farm laborers whom she helped in their work as far as possible. She was very interested in sports like volleyball and football and athletics, especially javelin throw and running, since her schooldays but didn’t know anything about boxing then.
In 1998, another Indian boxer from Manipur, Dingko Singh, won the gold medal for India at the Bangkok Asian Games. This incident inspired many youngsters of the time and Mary Kom says she was one of them and that she thought of giving it a try. This made her shift from athletics to boxing in the year 2000.
At a tender age of 15 years, she decided to join the Sports Academy in Imphal, where she was trained under the Manipur State Boxing Coach Narjit Singh. It was he who had advised her to change her name to Mary Kom (her original name being Mangte Chungeijang Kom) as it is easier to pronounce.
She didn’t let her father know about all this as he wouldn’t let her do it for he thought boxing would spoil her face because of which the prospect of her marriage would come down. She went on to win the state boxing championship in 2000 and her father came to know about it through a photograph in the local newspaper. After she won the 2002 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships, her father understood her passion for boxing and started to support her.
After getting married to a fellow sportsperson and a footballer Onler Kom and giving birth to twins, she withdrew from her career to look after her family.
Though she left boxing, the boxer in her never left her. With the support and encouragement of her husband, she got trained and gave a comeback by winning a silver at the 2008 Asian Women’s Boxing Championship followed by a gold medal at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games and proved everyone who doubted her strength and ability to perform after becoming a mother wrong.
In 2012 London Olympics, she won a Bronze medal, a first for India in the category of Women’s Boxing and became the third Indian woman to win an Olympic medal after Karanam Malleswari and Saina Nehwal.
Mary Kom was conferred with the highest sporting honor of the Republic of India, Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2009.
She was awarded the Arjuna award in 2003, Padma Shree in 2006 and Padma Bhushan in 2013 by the government of India for her excellence in the sport of boxing.
She was nominated as a Member of Parliament (Rajya Sabha) by the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee in April 2016. She was also appointed as a national observer for boxing by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India.
“Circuses are cruel places for animals where they are beaten and tortured. As a mother, I can imagine what animals go through when their children are taken away from them to forcefully perform in circuses. It’s sad.” -Mary Kom
She is an animal rights activist and a supporter of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).
In 2013, she published her autobiography Unbreakable which was co-authored by Dina Serto.
In 2014, a biographical film was released on the life of Mary Kom, starring Priyanka Chopra.
A symbol of sheer grit and determination, Mary Kom never fails to inspire millions of hearts waiting for a little motivation to start working on their dreams. She is the best example to prove that the keys to success are hard work and dedication. She is a woman of strength and proved that anything is possible if the body, mind, and soul are put into it.
She continues to be a great inspiration for mothers and gives a message that career needn’t stop after marriage. To everyone like her who cannot be stopped by any barriers on the way to their goals- more power to you!
Image sources: UrbanAsia, Sports365, India Today.