At 35, what fuels Mary Kom’s urge to keep going

If you saw the 48 kg category final clash of the Women’s Boxing World Championships at the K.D. Jadhav Indoor stadium on Saturday, you might not have realised that there was an age difference of 13 years between the two boxers plying their trade in the ring.

The one in the blue was nimble on her feet and punched with consummate combinations of rights and lefts. The guard was on point and her agility was second to none. Her opponent, Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota, tried to match her punch for punch, but the 22-year-old did not have ample experience to trouble the wily Mary Kom.

As it turned out, MC Mary Kom became the most successful pugilist in the history of Women’s World Championships after winning by a unanimous 5-0 against Okhota. She broke her tie of five golds and one bronze with Ireland’s Katie Taylor and equalled Cuban men’s legend Felix Savon along the way.

Throwing in the towel is not an option

‘What keeps people going?’ This is one question that has interested philosophers over centuries. Is it the desire to be in the limelight or to earn truckloads of money? But what about those who already have all of that and a lot more? What keeps them motivated?

“I am not finished yet,” was the resonant answer by Chungneijang Hmangte aka MC Mary Kom after she defeated Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi 5-0 in November 2017 to clinch her fifth gold in the Asian Women’s Boxing Championships. This ‘never say die’ attitude is at the core of Mary’s work ethics. This is what has resisted from hanging her boots, or her gloves rather.

It’s more than just medals

Mary Kom has achieved all that is there to be achieved in the world of boxing. Her fight now is not for some medal or championship, it’s with herself.

The 35-year-old has won the prestigious Arjuna, Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna, and Padma Bhushan awards. The feisty Manipuri has also clinched the Asian Boxing championship five times to go along with her six world championships and an Olympic bronze.

Mary Kom is the mother of three kids. She is also a Rajya Sabha MP now and one that attends sessions at that. She has a book written and a movie made on her. Yet, the pugilist isn’t someone to rest on her past laurels.

Some unfinished business

Olympics don’t have a 48 kg category. This is the reason why she failed to qualify for Rio. Mary would be 37 at the time of Tokyo Olympics but she still wants to give it a shot. The hunger has not subsided yet and the urge to do it for her country remains intact as ever.

“I am a little bit emotional today. There is no (48kg) weight category in the Olympic Games. Because of your love and support, I feel I will be able to qualify for 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Four years ago, I was not able to qualify for Rio. I am still suffering from that.

“I know it will be a bit difficult for me to win a gold in Tokyo as I will have to fight in 51kg,” she tried to put her overwhelming emotions into words after the WC win.

What more can an athlete do?

“Thank you for your love and support. I don’t have anything to give except for a gold in the country,” a teary-eyed Mary uttered.

As she said these words, you could not help but wonder, really, what else can an athlete do?

She is still giving it all, putting the last ounce of her energy to use. At 35, she is dreaming of an Olympic gold, an Olympic which is still two years away. Even that, in a category which is 3 kg higher than her weight.

“Because of their reach, the taller boxers (who will be in 51kg) will have advantage. But I am still dreaming about winning the gold in 2020 Olympics.”

Now folks, 3 kg may not sound like a lot to you but it is an awful lot in boxing. Weight being directly proportional to height, more weight means more height and bigger built. In a game of centimeters, the fact that Mary is even willing to have a shot at 51 kg in Tokyo, speaks volumes of the resolute person she is.

Chungneijang Hmangte is one of the tallest sportspersons across the world. She is an icon and an inspiration for numerous young people to take up sports. She has not let motherhood, an unsupportive family or career-threatening injuries come in her way. Not just in sports, but in life as well, we must not only laud but try to imbibe her work ethic and perseverance.

One can just wish that she gets her due appreciation and laurels for all she continues to put into the sport.

We salute you, Magnificent Mary!


Also Read:

1) Why Mary Kom deserves the Bharat Ratna

2) Sonia Chahal: The other WC medalist