The lone Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the upcoming London Olympics MC Mary Kom on Saturday said, “I feel proud and honoured to be part of boxing for such a long time now. I have seen the game grow from its nascent stage in India to where it is now”.
The five-time world champion Mary Kom left Mumbai in the early hours on Saturday for the final leg of her training in Liverpool, England. The 2010 Asian Games bronze medalist will get the training there under the supervision of her Coach Charles Atkinson before moving to the London Games Village.
In an interview prior to leaving the country, Mary Kom spoke about her journey as boxer, her preparations for the Olympics.
Q: You were there when women’s boxing first started in India at the turn of the century and now more than a decade later, you would be representing the Nation at the biggest sporting extravaganza in the world. How do you feel knowing that you are such a big part of boxing history?
Mary: (Smiling…) Feels very good… It’s been a long journey with lots of highs and lows. I feel proud and honoured to be part of boxing for such a long time now. I have seen the game grow from its nascent stage in India to where it is now. Inclusion in the Olympics and the Asian Games was a big boost for the sport and the athletes. Like every other athlete I always dreamt of playing at the Olympics and it feels really good to see that dream materialize. I am very thankful of all the support that I have received from different quarters, including the OGQ Team (Olympic Gold Quest), the Ministry (Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports), IOA (Indian Olympic Association), the Federation (Indian Amateur Boxing Federation) and all my sponsors.
Q: You are still challenging the Young Turks of the sport, winning awards and accolades internationally and nationally, what drives you on?
Mary: Right now it’s just the Olympics; I have played at every other level of the game, but the Olympics. The incentive of a medal at the biggest sporting arena in the world is what drives me. Before I hang my gloves I want to win the Olympic medal, and my performance at London will decide my future in the sport.
Q: How well are you prepared for the London Olympics, can you tell us a bit about your training?
Mary: Fully prepared… This has been my dream and I am training very hard to achieve the desired results. Ever since the Olympic qualification, we have increased the intensity of our training, working on various aspects of the game. Right now my focus is to maintain my form and physical fitness and be on the top of my game when the competition starts.
Q: The whole Nation wants you to triumph at the Olympics. Do you feel pressured with the country’s expectations?
Mary: In a sportsperson’s life, pressure is always there, you have to learn to deal with it. Earlier it was the pressure of qualifying, now of performing at the games. I understand my responsibility as an Indian athlete and the expectations people have from me. You can be assured that I will give my very best at London, rest is up to God.
Q: You have competed in all the editions of the world championships and won medals in six out of seven (5 gold and 1 silver). How different do you think the competition at the Olympics will be?
Mary: I believe the world championships are more competitive than the Olympics, as the amount of participation is far more at that level. But the fact that this is the Olympics and the first time for women’s boxing with only the selected best participating; the level of competition on offer will be top notch.
Q: Most of your career you fought in the light fly weight division. How difficult was it to adjust to the 51 kilogram weight?
Mary: Increasing and maintaining the weight was not difficult. I have been able to manage it easily. But it takes some getting used to the kind of competition and the opponents you face. Boxers have an advantage because of the height and in some cases are stronger and that is where the big adjustment comes.
Q: Qualifying for the Olympics, you had a bit of luck favouring you. How was that experience for you?
Mary: Obviously, luck played a factor in my qualification, I would have liked to win a medal and qualify on my own, but that’s not how things worked out. I did my bit by reaching the quarter-finals and got qualified after Nicola (Nicola Adams, English boxer) made it to the semi-finals. (Smiling…) I like to think that I worked hard and also got lucky.
Q: Your have been training with British coach Charles Atkinson for some time now, how has that been working out for you?
Mary: The training has been great and very helpful, like I said we have been working hard at various aspects of the game, including technique and tactics. We would be heading to Liverpool for the last leg of our training program before the competition starts in London. I am thankful to the Sports Ministry to have given me this opportunity.
Q: In your training you have been sparring with male boxers; can you tell us the reasoning behind this?
Mary: I am bound to get some taller and heavier opponents in London; keeping this in mind my Coach (Charles Atkinson) has designed this training schedule. I train and spar with two male boxers, one southpaw and the other orthodox, to get use to both the styles of boxing and it has been very helpful.
Q: What would you say is your most power full weapon?
Mary: I don’t have any one particular weapon and I am not going to depend on any one punch or any one move a lot. I will try and adapt my style according to the opponent I face.
Q: Who do you think will be your biggest opponents at the Games?
Mary: It’s the Olympics and anyone can be a challenging opponent. Moreover, boxing is a very fluid sport and one point can make the difference between winning and losing. When competition starts, I will be ready for anyone in the ring.
Q: You will have to win two bouts to get to the medal round, how confident are you of winning a medal?
Mary: I have been preparing for this moment for a long time now. This is what I want to achieve and I am confident of a favourable result. I will give my very best and the rest is up to God.