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Mighty Mary rumbles on, where's the logic in any of that?

Mary Kom just keeps coming back for more and this time in Tokyo, she is chasing the yellow metal at the pinnacle of sport — the Olympic Games.

Indian Boxer Mary Kom
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Mary Kom (Photo: David Talukdar/Getty Images/2019)

By

Gaurav Kalra

Updated: 2021-09-03T13:54:34+05:30

Sportspersons thrive on being anti-logic. Some, presumably, more than others.

Why else would a 38-year old mother of four, legacy secured, place in the pantheon established, and the adoration of a lifetime guaranteed, keep showing up to play a sport that essentially is about inflicting, and as a direct consequence, willing to suffer, pain?

She strides out on this Sunday afternoon, resplendent in red with a black bandana as an accompaniment. She has done this routine a million times before. It has taken her into contests that have led to six World Championship titles, an Olympic medal, Asian & Commonwealth Games Golds, and many other trophies that one can only guess jostle for space in a crowded cabinet.

Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom is decidedly anti-logic. Her breakthrough performance came at the World Championships in 2001, when she won silver.

That was TWENTY years ago.

The three other women boxers in India's boxing contingent at Tokyo — Pooja Rani, Lovlina Borogohain and Simranjeet Kaur — were 10, 4, and 6 respectively at the time.

Two decades of, to quote a ludicrously appropriate cliché, rolling with the punches. And Mary just keeps coming back for more, chasing the yellow metal at the pinnacle of sport.

"The Olympic gold medal is what is driving me and pushing me to carry on," she says after her first bout ends. "I am trying my best, if I am able to get it then I will be so grateful, but if not then I will still be so happy for all the medals I have won in the past."

Mary Kom is hungry for another Olympic medal, and she has the rings tattooed on her arm. (Source: Getty Images)

So onto the absurdity of the day itself. She enters the ring against an opponent 15 years younger. Miguelina Hernandez Garcia doesn't have much of a CV, but she has what her decorated rival doesn't – the vivacity of youth.

Logic would suggest that should make her faster and, as the intense heat in the arena takes its toll, wear down the ageing veteran. Garcia is also visibly taller, the wingspan, you'd think, an obvious advantage for her to land blows on her shorter statured opponent.

That would be logical though (insert chuckles here). And MC Mary Kom is anti-logic.

Over three rounds of three minutes each, Mary delivers a tactical masterclass. Her headgear appears problematic in the early going, but she weaves away from the Dominican's attacking intent and pounces on openings.

At the last Olympics in Rio, scores from three of five judges were valid towards the final count. Now all five are considered. At the end of the round, three judges rule in Mary's favour, two for Garcia.

Logically, you'd think, the Dominican has made a good start. Reputation is no longer a factor in this contest.

In the absence of crowds, the arena resonates with the sounds of "Het, Het" as the boxers lean in to connect their punches. "Useful shot," exclaims the commentator as Mary lands one. "It's pretty Even Stevens at the moment," he reckons. The lithe Garcia is eager to do damage with her preferred right fist, while Mary is hunting for openings. Three judges favour Mary again when the scores come in, two give the round to Garcia.

The climax begins with a ferocity so far unseen in the bout. Mary unleashes a barrage and is met by an electric response. The commentator is urging his audience to keep their eyes glued on the battle. "Look at the way they've both started," he exclaims, even as the referee interrupts to caution against fouls. This is now a bruiser. The younger among the two, by FIFTEEN years, should logically make the more penetrative incisions.

But MC Mary Kom is anti-logic.

In the seconds that follow, Mary lands a couple squarely on Garcia's chin, and she wobbles in their impact. Another right follows, as Mary pounces on Garcia's desperation to land some of her own back, swiveling cleverly into the openings. With a finish line in sight, the young gun is panting to catch up, the nearly 40-year old is pushing her back.

"Listen Blue," chides the referee, "No holding."

The clock ticks down, and as the final bell sounds, a little pump of the right fist is the sum total of Mary's response.

She's done this a million times. Garcia is bouncing around the ring but the score has already been calculated in Mary's head. All five judges count the final round in Mary's favour, she wins against an opponent the commentator describes as "spirited and awkward" by a split decision of 4-1.

2012 London bronze medalist Mary Kom with 2021 Tokyo silver medalist Mirabai Chanu. (Source: Twitter/Mirabai Chanu)

And so, this illogical journey continues, punching back against not just father time but the challenges of a raging pandemic that makes it even harder to convince an ageing body to cooperate with a determined mind.

"It has been very painful, the last couple of years, for everybody because of the pandemic and everything shut down. We are all suffering the same problem and every athlete has to train at home, but for us boxers, we need a training partner," she muses later.

Yes, Mary, the illogicality of all this isn't lost on any of us. Cold logic would suggest Tokyo should have been a bridge too far. Yet, here you are. So let's dispense with logic when you front up on Thursday against Rio Olympics bronze medalist Ingrit Valencia of Colombia on Thursday, shall we? The lens we apply to watch sport doesn't really work with you anyway.

Also Read: This one is for the athletes, and them alone

(Over the last 25 years, Gaurav Kalra has covered Cricket World Cups, Tennis Grand Slams, Olympics and interviewed some of the leading sportspersons in the world.)

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