The postponed 2020 Tokyo Olympics is now less than 50 days away. Though the fate of the Games hangs in balance even now, athletes from across the globe are sweating it out in their respective sessions to be in the best shape possible ahead of the quadrennial event. As the Olympics near with each passing day, we bring to you a new series of articles, 'Behind an Olympic medal', wherein we will take you through the struggles that went behind Olympic medals won by India.
For the very second article of this series, we take you through boxer Mary Kom's bronze medal finish at the 2012 London Olympics.
The 2012 London Games was the most successful one for India in their Olympic history. The country won a total of 6 medals, including 2 silver and 4 bronze. One among the six medals was Mary Kom's bronze in the Women's Flyweight category.
The 2012 London Olympics was the first time that Women's Boxing was introduced in the Olympics. There was a lot of anticipation surrounding the event. The sport was held in three different weight divisions for women – Flyweight (51kg), Lightweight (60kg) and Middleweight (75kg).
Up until the Olympics, Kom used to fight in the even lower weight divisions, i.e. 46kg and 48kg. Since boxing was being held only in three divisions, Kom shifted to the 51kg Flyweight division.
Kom had been fighting internationally for almost a decade then, and so naturally, there was a lot of pressure on her to perform well. She was not only the first Indian woman boxer to qualify for the Olympics, but she was also the only representative from the country in the event.
Moreover, her then coach, Charles Atkinson, was unable to join her in London as he did not have International Boxing Association (AIBA) 3-star certification, which was necessary for accreditation. Clearly, the odds were stacked against her. But the fiery fighter that she is, Mary Kom just did not care.
Up against Karolina Michalczuk of Poland in the first round, a nervous Kom huffed and puffed to a 19-14 victory in what was just the third ever bout of Women's boxing in the history of the Olympics. The second round was rather an easy one for the Indian as she cruised past the Tunisian Maroua Rahali 15-6 to enter the semifinals.
Kom's opponent in the semifinal was Nicola Adams of Great Britain. This was the toughest opponent the Indian had yet faced in London. But she had beaten her previously, and so the hopes were high.
In the end, it was not really Kom's day as she fell to a 6-11 defeat in a hard-fought bout to settle for a bronze medal. Adams, on the other hand, went on to be crowned the first Olympic champion in Women's boxing.
Almost nine years after the bronze at London, Mary Kom continues to churn out consistent performances at the highest level. In fact, she will also be in action at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and will be hoping to better that bronze in Japan.