Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, better known as Mary Kom, had already become a sporting legend in India before winning an Olympic medal in boxing in 2012. She was a five-time AIBA World Amateur Boxing Champion, a four-time Asian Women’s champion, and a bronze medallist in the 2010 Asian Games in China. She had also won the Witch Cup (2002) in Hungary, the Woman’s World Cup (2004) in Norway, the Venus World Cup (2006) in Denmark, the Asian Indoor Games (2009) in Vietnam, and the Asian Women’s Cup (2011) in China.
But it was the bronze at the London Olympics in 2012—the first time that women’s boxing was included in the Games—that made Mary Kom a global phenomenon, the one who put women’s boxing in India on the international map. In fact, she is practically India’s global ambassador for the sport and has been an inspiration for girls across the world to take up boxing.
The 2012 AIBA World Boxing Championship was also a qualifier for the 2012 Olympics. Mary Kom, who was used to fighting in the 46- and 48-kg weight categories, had to move up to the flyweight category (51 kg) as the rules allowed only three categories: flyweight, lightweight (60 kg) and middleweight (75 kg). She won the bronze in the World Boxing championship and became the only Indian woman boxer to qualify for the Olympics.
In the Olympics, Mary Kom lost in the semifinals to Nicola Virginia Adams of the UK, who went on to win the gold. The following year, Mary Kom, who was already a mother of twins, gave birth to her third child, and the very next year won gold at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea. Although she failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics, she won the Asian Women’s Championship for the fifth time in Vietnam in 2017.
Born on November 24, 1982, in Kagathei village in Manipur’s Churachandpur district to tenant farmers Mangte Tonpa Kom and Mangte Akham Kom, Mary’s life is a story of unwavering dedication and hard work.
In a career spanning more than 20 years, “Magnificent Mary” remained at the top of her profession right till the end. In 2018, she made history by becoming the only boxer to win the AIBA Women’s World Championship six times.
The same year she won her first Commonwealth Games gold medal in the light flyweight category. She was 36 years old–an age when most sportspersons are considered past their prime. Following her record-breaking achievement in the World Championship, the government of Manipur gave her the title, “Meethoi Leima” (Exceptional Lady). She secured a flyweight bronze medal in the AIBA World Championship in Russia in 2019. She could not achieve her dream of winning an Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021.