Prediction: Why Mary Kom's hunt for the gold medal at Tokyo Olympics looks difficult?
Boxer Mary Kom cannot have a better swansong at the Tokyo Olympics than winning the gold medal. But she needs to punch way above her weight to pull it off.
India will be sending its largest-ever Olympics contingent to Tokyo this year. Whoever has followed Indian sports in-depth knows how boxing great Mary Kom is a bonafide champion who has time and again made us fill with pride.
The 38-year-old Khel Ratna awardee from Manipur is eyeing a swansong at the Tokyo Olympics, the event she had to wait for one more year as it was postponed amid the outbreak of the COVID-19. The 2012 Olympics bronze medallist, cannot have a better departure from professional sport than wrapping up with the most coveted silverware in the world - the Olympic gold medal.
The six-time world champion pugilist is leaving no stone unturned in her bid to win that elusive Olympic gold. In fact, she has reiterated, "There's no secret mantra for me to achieve at the World Championships or the Olympics. I will keep fighting and will not give up until I win the gold for India at the Olympics," However, Mary Kom's chance look easier on paper than being done.
How Mary Kom's chance at the Tokyo Olympics looks like?
To answer this question, one has to delve into the details of boxing and particularly the weight category Mary will be competing in. Mary has been taking part in the women's 51kg weight category since 2012, when women's boxing was first introduced in the Olympics Games in London.
She was among the eight boxers who had competed in the London Games and finished third among the eight to bag the bronze. At the 2016 Rio Games, no Indian, including, Mary could qualify for the women's boxing event. Owing to its popularity, more competitors started taking up boxing for the Olympics and fought for 12 spots in the 51kg category. Mary couldn't sail through the qualifications and was left at home when a 117-member Indian contingent travelled to Rio.
For Tokyo Olympics, Mary bagged a quota at Asia-Oceania Boxing Qualifiers in 2019, Jordan, and in the same year, she also finished with a bronze medal at the AIBA World Boxing Championship. Mary's qualification to the Olympics wasn't as 2016 because a total of 26 boxers will be playing in her weight category. However, the competitive scale will be much higher in Tokyo Olympics than what she had faced in London 2012.
In London, Mary played her first match in the quarterfinal and reached the semifinal, and a semifinal entry ensured her a medal, which means she technically had to play just a single bout to earn a medal.
The equation will be totally different in Tokyo, where she will have to win at least three bouts to make sure an entry into the semis, and then another two bouts to win the gold medal. Mary will have to win all five bouts to bag the coveted gold, which still looks difficult as she is not the best boxer in her category.
According to the world boxing rankings, Mary is placed at the seventh position in her weight category, which is topped by Buse Naz Çakıroğlu of Turkey. Chang Yuan of China is placed second, followed by Huang Hsiao-Wen of Chinese-Taipei in the third position and Rabab Cheddar of Morocco in the fourth position. Mary would also be facing stiff competition against World no. 9 Russia's Liliya Aetbaeva, who won the gold medal in the 2019 World Championships.
Going by her recent for, Mary had to settle for a silver medal at the 2021 ASBC Asian Boxing Championships in Dubai, where she lost to two-time world champion Nazym Kyzaibay of Kazakhstan in the final.
Therefore, Mary has to punch above her weight to win the gold medal. It doesn't look impossible. However, with age not by her side, Mary would face extremely stiff competition in her race to the gold medal. Maybe, another bronze medal, is practically what we can expect from her.