If it’s London and it’s hockey, it is first or last

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Mary Kom ensures boxing medal in London

“It is a dream come true. It is an emotional moment for me. I know there are more fights on the way and my goal is gold,” says Mary Kom

V Krishnaswamy
London

Back in Sydney in 2000, Karnam Malleswari ensured that an Indian was on the podium when women’s weightlifting made its debut at the Olympics. As women’s boxing made its entry three Games later in London, 29-year-old Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte, better known as MC Mary Kom, has done the same.

The five-time World Champion’s Olympic dream was not to be denied as she outboxed Maroua Rahali in the quarter-finals to make it to the semi-finals and ensure India another medal in London. It will India to their best-ever medal haul – four – with the prospect of a couple of medals from men’s boxing and wrestling.

Mary Kom celebrated her twin sons’ birthday on Sunday 5 August with her maiden appearance at Olympic Games beating her Polish rival Karolina Michalczuk. On Monday, the medal was sealed as she demolished her Tunisian rival, Rahali, who had a first-round bye.

It would be a big relief for followers of the sport in Northeast, for their other woman superstar, Kunjurani Devi, a multiple medalist in women’s world weightlifting championships, had finished an agonising fourth in Athens in 2004.

Mary Kom entered the semi-finals of the women’s fly weight (48-51 kg) category with a comfortable 15-6 victory. Opening cautiously and sizing up her opponent, Mary Kom was 2-1 ahead in first round. That lead swelled to 5-3 at the end of second round. It was in the third round that she crushed Rahali 6-1 and made the gap 11-4. Southpaw, Mary was far too superior for her opponent as she closed the fight 15-6.

It is also India’s second boxing medal ever, following up on Vijender Singh’s bronze in Beijing. Vijender is once again in the reckoning and could become India’s first and only repeat individual medalist at the Olympic Games when he fights late on Monday 6 August night in the Middleweight category.

Mary Kom’s next opponent will be second seed Nicola Adams, who will hope to ride on the wave of home advantage. Adams beat Stoyka Petrova of Bulgaria 16-7 verdict in another quarter final bout.

”It is a dream come true. It is an emotional moment for me. I know there are more fights on the way and my goal is gold. But I wanted to ensure a medal. For the past year I have been dreaming of an Olympic medal and now I am ready,” said Mary Kom.

“I am thinking about one fight at a time. Now I need to get into the finals and then go for gold,” added Mary, who ironically failed to get a medal at the 2012 World Championships for the first time in seven years.

“For the last three or four years, I have been training with boys taller and heavier than me. It has helped a lot. I am not really tired today, but my first round was tougher. I am getting into the groove and hopefully, will be able to deliver when it matters the most. I am eagerly looking forward to that,” she added.

Mary Kom’s win in the quarter-final did not seem in doubt from the moment she stepped into the ring. And now she wants to become India’s first woman gold medalist.

Vishwanathan Krishnaswamy is a senior sports journalist. 
letters@tehelka.com

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