Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, or Mary Kom as we know her, is a five-time World Boxing champion. Born on March 1, 1983, she was the eldest child among four siblings. Her parents were Jhum cultivators in Kangathei Village, Moirang Lamkhai in rural Manipur, India.
Mary Kom completed her primary education up to Class VI from Loktak Christian Model High School, Moirang, and later attended St. Xavier Catholic School, Moirang. She then moved to Adimjati High School, Imphal, for her schooling for classes IX and X. She graduated from Churachandpur College.
In an interview, Mary Kom once stated that she initially took to sports in order to provide financial assistance to her family. She was an all-round athlete until the Manipuri male boxer Dingko Singh returned from Bangkok with a gold medal (Asian Games, 1998). Singh’s success sparked an uprising of sort and many from the state were drawn into the sport for good. She too was inspired by Singh.
Mary Kom started boxing in the year 2000 when she was 18 years old; in two weeks, she was through with all the basics. In the same year she won a state championship and ‘Best Boxer’ Award, and her photograph was published in the local newspaper. Much against the wishes of her locals, the fearless fighter continued with her practice. Her cousins were very supportive and coaxed her father Mangte Tonpa Kom and mother Mangte Akham Kom, who eventually gave their approval. She went on to win the gold in the Seventh East India Women’s Boxing Championship held in West Bengal and subsequently to win five Indian National Championships from 2000 to 2005.
In 2003, Mary Kom became the first woman ever to receive India’s prestigious Arjuna Award for her achievement in the field of boxing. Soon after, she was awarded the Padma Shree (Sports) in the year 2006 and after her Bronze win at the London Olympics’2012, she was presented with the Padma Bhushan this year. She also has to her credit the following accolades: People of the Year-Limca Book of Records (2007), CNN-IBN & Reliance Industries’ Real Heroes Award (2008), Pepsi MTV Youth Icon (2008), Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award (2009), Sportswoman of the Year (2010) by Sahara Sports Award among many others.
The Amateur International Boxing Association (AIBA), in the year 2008 gave her the title of ‘Magnificent Mary’.
“To be a successful boxer one must also have a strong heart. Some women are physically strong but fail when it comes to having a strong heart. One also must have the zeal and the right fighting spirit. We work harder than men and are determined to fight with all our strength to make our nation proud. God has given me the talent and it’s only because of sheer grit and hard work that I have made it so far.” says Mary Kom. She proudly pronounces that she works out about six hours a day to stay fit.
Coming from a family which struggled to educate its children, Mary Kom’s success as a World Champion is an example of her tenacity to succeed. She has won at International events like the Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships, Witch Cup, Asian Women’s Championships, Venus Women’s Box Cup, Asian Games, Asian Indoor Games, Asian Women’s Cup and the latest being the London Olympics 2012.
Mary Kom is married to Onler Kom and considers him her best friend. In an interview earlier with Sevendiary, she mentioned that her husband has been extremely supportive which gave her the strength to fight with no distractions; taking care of her training schedules, deals and the family as well. He makes her peacefully concentrate on trainings and is a guide in every step of her life. Mary is blessed with twin sons, Rechungvar and Khupneivar. Her new-born son was named Chungthanglen.
With the dream of encouraging local talents and aiding them with the best of her capabilities, the Olympic medalist runs the MC Mary Kom Regional Boxing Foundation at her Langol Games Village residence in Imphal West. It provides free training, boarding and lodging to its wards of over 30 poor students belonging to different communities from various parts of the state. Most of them go to nearby schools. The Union Sports Ministry has recently approved a grant of Rs. 309.56 Lakh in principle for construction of the institute, which will be released in installments. The Foundation was also allotted 3.30 acres of land, as approved by the cabinet for construction of infrastructure for the existing boxing academy at the National Games Village.