August 9, 2012. The red-letter day for Indian boxing and for the country’s pugilist MC Mary Kom. The mother of two from Manipur was up against the formidable Nicol Adams, the host country’s best bet for gold. This was the tiny will–o’–the–wisp moment for the Indian dynamo. She didn’t want to let her fans down or the nation. But she had a daunting task ahead of her.
For starters, Adams, a female avatar of the legendary Mohammad Ali, was not just the crowd favourite but also one who had the potential to knock down any challenge that came in her way for the gold.
Forget the 6-11 score in the semifinals, the way Adams dominated the bout, left every official — indeed every Indian fan there — cringing at the blows she pummelled Mary with.
Suddenly, a cry of relief came from my left: “Thank God.” This was the last round as a senior boxing official rushed with an ice pack to attend to Mary’s wounds.
India’s first-ever medal winner in the Olympics obliged the waiting media crew without a moment’s rest. “How was it Mary?” I asked as she was getting down the stairs.
“Bahut maar pada,” she said spontaneously and candidly without realising she was speaking to a scribe.
“Don’t, don’t say all this. Please,” pleaded a visibly relieved senior IABF official, taking comfort from the fact that at least the braveheart had brought home a medal. Thereafter followed a well intentioned ‘advice session’ detailing the dos and don’ts to be observed while speaking to the media.
That was Mary Kom for you. She withstood many a punch to make the country proud.