Magnificent Mary and her four challenges

Magnificent Mary and her four challenges

Magnificent Mary and her four challenges

Indian women get married and then go the family way. So goes the stereotype. Getting married, delivering twins before becoming a world champion for the fourth time? Is that a script of a new Bollywood movie? 

 It is actually just another jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring page from the remarkable MC Mary Kom story.  

 Tim De Lisle, editor of moreintelligentlife, a lifestyle magazine, described the five-feet two-inch pocket dynamite perfectly: "Boxer, mother, five-time world champion and habitual destroyer of stereotypes."

At the launch of her autobiography in Bangalore, Unbreakable, Mary talks eloquently about the struggles and the hardships that she had to endure as she made her way to the top. 

Rattling of the challenges that she has had to face, one thing becomes immediately clear. Unbreakable wasn't written with an intention to cash in on a fifteen-second success story. It was written with the sole intention of telling the world the kind of obstacles and hurdles that she faced. "I have had to face four challenges in life," Mary says. It is not hard to realise that boxing has become a way of life for this champion and Olympic bronze medallist from Manipur. Be it battering opponents inside the ring or sailing over the myriad hurdles that she has had to cross outside the ring.  

"When I decided to enter the sport, there was no boxing for women. Then when it was introduced and I made my intentions clear that I wanted to compete, I had to face lots of comments from lots of quarters."  

When she narrates her challenges, it almost feels as if every second person she came across in life didn't trust her abilities. 

 "When I said I wanted to take up boxing, lots of people actually laughed at me," she says nonchalantly, not perturbed one bit by what many people might consider insulting. “'You are a woman and you want to play in a men's game?', they asked me. "But I didn't give up. I wanted to do it and I wanted to prove myself." 

Staying in the sport at the highest level after getting married posed another challenge. It was tough in a society where you don’t often fined women continuing in sport after tying the proverbial knot, let alone in a sport as physical and intensive as boxing. 

“So I again had to prove myself after I got married. There were again lots of comments that were passed but I just had the determination inside me to succeed,” she explains.The third challenge was being able to compete after becoming a mother for the first time.  “This time, even my father had doubts about whether I could again go back inside the ring.  I was out of the ring for two years so coming back was difficult and it was also a test of patience. With god’s grace, I proved to myself that I could overcome these challenges,” she says in that slow, unhurried voice of hers. 

She didn’t just come back to active competition but managed to win two more World titles – in the pinweight category (46 kg) in 2008 before taking the light flyweight (48) gold in 2010.  Her dream progress in the ring extended right till the London Games in 2012 when Mary managed to capture a flyweight (51 kg) bronze despite competing in a higher weight category.

“My fourth and final challenge,” she says, still maintaining the same tenor with which she started answering the question, “was that my weight category (pinweight) was not there in the Olympics. 

“The lowest was 51 kg and I was not in that division. Most of the boxers and coaches did not even expect me to win a medal. ‘How can she win a medal when Mary is very short,’ they constantly kept saying. 

“That gave me the determination and the drive to do well and it also improved me as my focus became sharper,” she reveals. 

When she starts talking about her bronze model, you sense a tinge of regret in her voice. “I still have a desire in me and with all your support, I will win gold in Rio.” 

 It is strange to note that all the hurdles that Mary has faced has sport at the heart of the conflict with threads of life woven into the equation. And with her desire to go for gold in Rio, one just feels that there are a few more pages to turn.