“People used to say that boxing is for men and not for women, and I thought I will show them some day. I promise myself and I proved myself.”– Mary Kom
A common girl, the daughter of a wrestler from Manipur, India who chased and conquered her dreams by breaking the stereotypes about women in India, is Mary Kom for Indians. Mary Kom is the first female boxer in Indian to win an Olympic Medal. She is the role model for Indian women to break the stereotypes about women in India. She inspires people to pursue their dreams no matter what obstructions they face. For her successful and astounding life, she was titled “Queen of boxing” and “Magnificent Mary”.
Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom was born on November 24, 1982, in Kangathei village, Churanchandpur district in Manipur, India. She is from a Kom family and is the elder sister of a younger brother and sister. Mary Kom’s father Mangte Tonpa, a wrestler, and her mother Akham Kom worked in jhum fields where they were tenant farmers.
Mary Kom was taught to grow up humbly by helping her parents in farming, attending school, and looking after her siblings. But as the saying apple never falls far from the tree, Mary Kom got her sportsmanship from her father. Mary who started to learn athletics soon got fascinated by boxing and started to pursue it. But her parents didn’t encourage her to study boxing. Because they thought that it may cause injuries on her face and body which will make her less attractive to the men to marry her.
Mary Kom did her schooling till VI standard at Loktak Christian Model High School, Moirang and St. Xavier Catholic School, Moirang till VII standard. During her school days, javelin and 400m running were her pet events. For doing her IX and X standard she moved to Adimjati High School, Imphal. But she failed in the examination. Not wanting to go back she quit and gave her examinations from NIOS, Imphal. Then she did her higher education at Churachandpur College.
During Mary Kom’s schooling days, in 1998 a Manipuri Dingko Singh won the gold medal in Bangkok Asian Games. The youngsters were inspired by his victory and started to practice boxing and that is also when Mary Kom turned to boxing in 2000. Among other reasons, the demonstration of women boxers at the 5th National Games in Manipur also triggered her desire for boxing.
By realizing her passion, Mary Kom started her training and at the age of 15, she moved to Imphal to study at the Sports Academy. Manipur State Boxing Coach M. Narjit Singh trained her at Khuman Lampak, Imphal. All along, Mary hid from her father about her passion for boxing. He came to know about it when her photo was published in the newspaper for winning the state boxing championship in 2000. Although they protested at first, witnessing her astounding performance they agreed.
Career and Achievements
Mary Kom allowed herself a short break from boxing after her marriage. But right after she had her twins, she returned to boxing. Women’s boxing was introduced in 2001, and in the initial year itself, she returned home with a silver in the 48kg category. Later in 2002, she won gold in AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship against North Korea’s Jang Song-ae in the 45kg category. In 2005, 2006, 2008, and 2010 Mary won gold in the pin weight division.
It was in the 2012 Summer Olympics, that women’s boxing was introduced as an Olympic Sport. The 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship was a path for her to reach the Olympics. She won a bronze in the 51 kg category in her first Olympics. Later in the 2014 Asian Games, she won the gold in the 51 kg category. Later in 2017 and 2018, she won the gold medal for the 45-48 kg category in Asian Women’s Championship and Commonwealth Games.
Mary Kom was the only women boxer to win gold 6 times in World Amateur Boxing Championship and the only boxer to win 8 World Championship medals. The International Boxing Association (AIBA) ranked her the No.1 female light-flyweight.
In 2016, Mary Kom was nominated as a member of the Rajya Sabha by the President. She was appointed as a national observer for boxing along with Akhil Kumar in 2017. She was the brand ambassador for the 2016 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championships.
Mary Kom was awarded many titles for her astonishing achievements in sports and boxing.
- In 2003, she won Arjuna Award for boxing
- In 2006, she won Padma Shri for sports
- In 2009, she won Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award.
- In 2013, she won Padma Bhushan for sports
- In 2020, she won Padma Vibhushan for sports.
Mary Kom married Karung Onkholer a footballer who she met in New Delhi in 2000. She was on her way to National Games in Punjab and her luggage was stolen. Onler was studying at Delhi University and was the president of the student body. He helped Kom in that desperate situation and they became friends. After that, they started dating and got married after four years in 2005. Mary and Onler had their twin boys in 2007 and their third son in 2013. They also adopted a girl in 2018.
Mary Kom is an animal lover. Her love for animals made her an animal activist and a supporter of People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, India.
Mary also wrote an autobiography partnering with another author, Dina Serto. Unbreakable was published in 2013. Her life story was made into a film named Mary Kom. Priyanka Chopra played Mary’s role and it was directed by Omung Kumar. The movie was released on 2014, September 5.
Mary Kom is the epitome of stereotype breaker for Indian Women. In India, girls were taught to lead their life obediently so that they can get married and boxing is considered taboo for girls. In the same India, Mary Kom, Queen of boxing showed how to pursue your dreams without setting your limitations and breaking the stereotypes.