Million dollar Mary adds another feather

New Delhi, Jan 26 (IANS) London Olympics bronze medallist M.C. Mary Kom added another feather to her hat as she was named a recipient of India's third highest civilian honour, the Padma Bhushan.

In a country where world champions are a rarity, the five-time boxing orld champion always had to shout for recognition. But all that changed after she won the Olympic bronze medal last year becoming the first Indian woman to win an Olympic medal in boxing.

Mary Kom's journey to the top of women's boxing has been an arduous one. With all she has done for the sport, very few people have acknowledged her feats. A woman boxer from India would seem like fiction to many. However, Mary Kom transcended the gender boundary by becoming the best at what she does.

Inspired by famous Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh, an Asian Games gold medallist, Mary Kom gave up books for boxing gloves. But she had to hide her interests from her family. All that changed after her victory in the Manipur state women's boxing championship in 2000.

If growing up in her strife-torn state was hard, the road to the Games was harder. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going.

In the inaugural 2001 World Championship, she won the silver and her golden run started in 2002. In 2003, Mary Kom was awarded the Arjuna Award.

She became a legend in boxing bagging a hat-trick of World Championships in 2006. Calls for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country's highest sporting honour, became louder but Mary Kom was ignored repeatedly.

The Manipuri fighter vented out her anger after she was ignored despite winning the world title for the record fourth consecutive time in 2008.

M.S. Gill, the then sports minister, intervened and assured her that justice would be done. Finally, Mary Kom got the Khel Ratna along with Beijing Games bronze medallists Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh.

Being a police officer, she had to do her job, find time and opponents to practice, and then hunt for funds to build up international experience.

After her success, Mary Kom married K. Onler Kom and had twin sons, Rechungvar and Khupneivar. Not only does she have to lend emotional support to her young family but also is the main source of income.

Her husband Onler also played a crucial role in her growth and time and again Mary Kom has given him all the credit. He had to stay at home and cater to their twin sons while Mary Kom travelled the world trying to bring laurels.

After a two-year sabbatical that saw her start a family, Mary Kom came back strongly to win the World Championship twice.

After the news of inclusion of women's boxing in the Olympics for the first time, Mary Kom had to make a huge change, going to 51kg category from 46kg.

Life finally came full circle as she got the Olympic medal, she so richly deserved and now the Padma Bhushan.

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