Mary Kom: simply magnificent

Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte, more famously known as Mary Kom, has been one of the most amazing stories that we have witnessed on India’s sporting scene.

From humble beginnings in Manipur, Kom has overcome many hardships to become a household name in India and a trailblazer for her sport.

At London 2012, the flyweight became the first Indian woman boxer to win an Olympic medal by claiming bronze.

One moment amongst a staggeringly long list of achievements.

Her impact is not just felt by opponents in the ring, but by those who have been inspired to lace up the gloves and attempt to emulate her feats.

The rise to international recognition

Initially interested in athletics, Mary switched to boxing as she found her inspiration from boxer Dingko Singh’s when he won a gold medal at the 1998 Asian Games.

Her coach at the time, K Kosana Meitei noticed her resilience and intelligence to pick up the basics of boxing.

Mary's love for the sport quickly grew deep - but she initially tried to hide her pugilistic pursuit from her father.

Her first notable results in the sport came in the year 2000, when she triumphed in both the Manipur State Boxing Championship followed by the West Bengal Regional Championship.

The following year - and with her father now supporting her - Kom was ready to show her skills on the international stage.

Mary’s first showdown at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships 2001 witnessed her career’s first of many medals.

At a tender 18-years-old, Kom went all the way to the 48kg final in Scranton, USA.

Although she was easily outpointed in the end by Hulya Sahin, a much more experienced opponent, Kom had truly arrived.

What followed was unstoppable success.

The golden years

The following year saw Kom compete at the World Championships in the Turkish city of Antalya.

It was there that the daughter of tenant farmers from Kangthei village was crowned world champion for the first time.

Defeating North Korea's Jang Song-Ae in the final was the start of an incredible, golden run for Kom.

By the end of 2010, Kom had collected no less than five World Championship titles along with three Asian Championship golds.

Out of the ring, her life had changed no less dramatically.

In 2005 she married Karung Onkholer Kom, a former footballer, and two years later gave birth to twin boys.

Mary Kom (blue) in action in 2011 at ExCel, London
Mary Kom (blue) in action in 2011 at ExCel, LondonMary Kom (blue) in action in 2011 at ExCel, London

The Champion’s Stride

With women’s boxing making its debut at the 2012 London Olympics, India had its hopes pinned on then 5-time world champion Mary Kom.

But then at the Olympics, things were not going to be easy by any stretch of the imagination. For someone who had dominated the pinweight and the light flyweight categories throughout her career, Kom was forced to move a category upwards to 51kg as the world body decided to allow women’s boxing in only three weight categories.

But as so often in her life, Kom did not let change deter her.

The Indian secured her quarter final place by outpunching Poland's Karolina Michalczuk.

Her opponent in the last eight proved to be no match for Kom, as Tunisia's Maroua Rahali was comprehensively outboxed by a score of 15-6.

Despite giving away height and reach, Kom was good value for her victory - and thus secured at least a bronze for India.

The semi final stage was to be the last step for Kom, as home favourite Nicola Adams swept to a 11-6 win on her way to winning the gold medal.

But Kom still got to step up on the podium and, yet again, make history for her country.


There was no let-up after London for Kom.

In 2013, she welcomed her third child into the world whilst also being awarded Padma Bhushan - the third-highest civilian award conferred by the Indian government.

More gold came her way at the Asian Games in 2014, with seemingly no end to her appetite for competition.

A record sixth World Championships was won in New Delhi last year, a number unmatched by any other woman boxer.

Now her focus is on Tokyo 2020, and seeing whether she can finish a remarkable career with gold.

Mary Kom emerges victorious the 2014 Asian Games
Mary Kom emerges victorious the 2014 Asian GamesMary Kom emerges victorious the 2014 Asian Games

People used to say that boxing is for men and not for women and I thought I will show them someday. I promised myself and proved myself.

First the 36-year-old must qualify for next year's Olympics - so will need to summon another impressive performance at the World Championships in Russia next October.

If she can secure her spot, Kom will have the opportunity to bow out in glittering fashion.

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