Returning to training with fresh purpose

Boxing

Mary Kom. PTI file photo

The boxing hall at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex reverberates with ceaseless pounding by young women boxers. MC Mary Kom is late for training. As she motors her way in, the din settles momentarily. Hurriedly tying her hair, half panting, she fiercely shoots down requests from the waiting media.

Over the years, Mary Kom has been punctilious about her training sessions. If ever her engagements tie her down, she is known to inform the coach well in advance. The five world championships titles, five Asian Championships titles, an Olympic bronze, gold medals in Asian Games and Commonwealth Games have not satiated her. Mary Kom, 35, is still searching for more; enjoying the never ending journey of perfection.

It’s remarkable how the diminutive lady carries around her a strong aura. The moment she takes to the ring the others recede. It’s Mary Kom, the ceaseless movement of her nimble feet, the noisy release of her breath with each punch. Once the session is over, Mary Kom switches her mode too. She lets her guard down. The intensity of the ring gives way to a hearty laughter. “I like to have fun. That is how it should be,” says Mary Kom, who is also a Rajya Sabha MP

It doesn’t mean the sixth World Championship title isn’t hovering. India is hosting the event -- November 15-24, New Delhi -- for the second time after 2006, and all eyes are on ‘Magnificent Mary’. But Mary Kom is too experienced to let the expectations affect her. She, though is excited to be part of the World Championships, which she has dominated in the 48 kg weight category all these years. Her staggering record of five titles out of the six appearances speaks for itself.

Mary Kom, who incidentally began her World Championship journey with a silver medal in the inaugural edition at Scranton, Pennsylvania, US in 2001, doesn’t have much recollection of it. However, her maiden gold medal in Antalya in 2002 is well etched in memory.

“I will try to get a sixth World Championships gold here,” she promises. “After a long gap I am competing in world championships in my category. That is an advantage. I won gold in 2006 and this time also I want to gift gold to my country. I will try my best.”

The deep desire to improve has a near hypnotic effect on her. Her coach Chotte Lal Yadav would vouch how one can’t keep Mary Kom away from boxing. At this, Mary Kom again roars with laughter. “I always try to improve myself, work on my weaknesses. Whatever the coaches tell me, I work according to that. I keep telling myself that I have to improve. Sometimes I don’t know what is going, sometimes I feel I have done very well in training,” says Mary Kom, who is a mother to three boys.

“I keep working on some aspect. I have got all medals but still I feel there is something missing. I want to increase my speed, my power. That comes from inside. If this comes in every girl, then it will be a big thing. It should happen like that. I am an example for them”.

The maturity she has gained over the years has blossomed into the joy of competing. “Yes I am enjoying it more now with experience. When I was young, I just wanted to win. I was using all my strength, no tactics, technique skills, nothing at all. That was a different world. There was no facility that time. No doctor, no physio. By god’s grace, I somehow managed.”

Today, Mary Kom’s training is all about short, high-intensity sessions designed by coach Raffaele Bergamasco. “Now the competition is becoming very tough, training is becoming very hard. It’s short but high-intensity training. I give my all. I take every training session very seriously, fully focused. My mind is always there,” she asserts. “All opponents are tough. I can’t take anyone easy in World Championships. One has to use her intelligence in every match. Every boxer is strong, they are young; skill wise, technically they might be weak, but energy wise they are strong. Once I know her I plan and play accordingly.”

Mary Kom’s expression changes when you talk about the current generation of women boxers. It pains her to see that no one matches up to her. Asian Games, without Mary Kom and Sarita Devi, was disappointing for women boxers. “It’s great for me that I am still playing for my country. The new boxers can see and learn from me. If anyone comes and asks for tips on how to improve in training, I will be happy to do so. But if they don’t ask how can I go and tell them. That will be interference,” she bemoans.

“Sometimes I feel so angry; these girls are still not getting that speed. They can improve more. The facilities are all there, it’s in the hands of the boxers now. You need to have that hunger. It should come from within.”

Prod Mary Kom if this could be her last World Championship, and she is furious. “Why? I am getting challenged more, I am more pumped up. I have a busy schedule, I literally dashed here today. I do not want to miss a single practice session,” she sounds firm. “Maybe, I will have a new memory to share this time.”

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Returning to training with fresh purpose

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