Mountain View

Overview

Chungneijang Mery Kom Hmangte (born 24 November 1982), better known as Mary Kom, is an Olympic Indian boxer hailing from the Kom tribe in Manipur. She is a five-time World Amateur Boxing champion, and the only woman boxer to have won a medal in each one of the six world championships. Nicknamed “Magnificent Mary”, she is the only Indian woman boxer to have qualified for the 2012 Summer Olympics, competing in the flyweight (51 kg) category and winning the bronze medal. She has also been ranked as No. 4 AIBA World Women’s Ranking Flyweight category. She became the first Indian woman boxer to get a Gold Medal in the Asian Games in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea.

On 26 April 2016, Kom was nominated by the President of India as a member of the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of the Indian Parliament. In March 2017, the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports, Government of India, appointed Mary Kom along with Akhil Kumar as national observers for boxing.

 

Early life

Kom was born in Kangthei village, Moirang Lamkhai in Churachandpur district of rural Manipur in eastern India. She came from a poor family. Her parents, Mangte Tonpa Kom and Mangte Akham Kom were tenant farmers who worked in jhum fields. They named her Chungneijang. Kom grew up in humble surroundings, helping her parents with farm related chores, going to school and learning athletics initially and later boxing simultaneously. Kom’s father was a keen wrestler in his younger days. She was the eldest of three children – she has a younger sister and brother.

Kom studied at the Loktak Christian Model High School at Moirang up to her sixth standard and thereafter attended St. Xavier Catholic School, Moirang, up to class VIII. During this time, she took a good amount of interest in athletics, especially javelin and 400 metres running. It was at this juncture, Dingko Singh, a fellow Manipuri returned from the 1998 Bangkok Asian games with a gold medal. Kom recollects that this had inspired many youngsters in Manipur to try boxing, and she too thought of giving it a try.

After standard VIII, Kom moved to Adimjati High School, Imphal, for her schooling for class IX and X, but was unable to pass the matriculation exam. Not wishing to reappear for them, she quit her school and gave her examination from NIOS, Imphal and graduation from Churachandpur College.

In school, Kom participated in all types of sports including volleyball, football and athletics. It was the success of Dingko Singh that inspired her to switch from athletics to boxing in 2000. She started her training under her first coach K. Kosana Meitei in Imphal. When she was 15, she took the decision to leave her hometown to study at the Sports academy in the state capital Imphal. In an interview with the BBC, Meitei remembered here as a dedicated hardworking girl with a strong will power, who picked up the basics of boxing quickly. Thereafter she trained under the Manipur State Boxing Coach M. Narjit Singh, at Khuman Lampak, Imphal. Kom kept her interest in boxing a secret from her father, himself an ex-wrestler, as he was concerned that boxing would hurt Kom’s face and spoil her chances of marriage. However, he learnt of it when Kom’s photo appeared in a newspaper after she won the state boxing championship in 2000. After three years, her father began to support Kom’s pursuits in boxing as he grew convinced of her love of boxing.

Return to boxing

After her marriage, Kom took a short hiatus from boxing. After she and Ongler had their first two children, Kom again started training. She won a silver medal at the 2008 Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in India and a fourth successive gold medal at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in China, followed by a gold medal at the 2009 Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam.

In 2010, Kom won the gold medal at the Asian Women’s Boxing Championship in Kazakhstan, and at the AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship in Barbados, her fifth consecutive gold at the championship. She competed in Barbados in the 48 kg weight category, after AIBA had stopped using the 46 kg class. In the 2010 Asian Games, she competed in the 51 kg class – the lowest in the contest – and won a bronze medal. In 2011, she won gold in the 48 kg class at the Asian Women’s Cup in China.

On 3 October 2010, she, along with Sanjay and Harshit Jain, had the honour of bearing the Queen’s Baton in its opening ceremony run in the stadium for the 2010 Commonwealth Games of Delhi. She did not compete, however, as women’s boxing was not included in the Commonwealth Games.

On 1 October 2014, she won her first Gold Medal at the Asian Games held at Incheon, South Korea by beating Kazakhstans Zhaina Shekerbekova in the flyweight (51 kg) summit clash.

Olympic Games

Kom, who had previously fought in the 46 and 48 kg categories, shifted to the 51 kg category after the world body decided to allow womens boxing in only three weight categories eliminating the lower weight classes.

At the 2012 AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship, Kom was competing not just for the championship itself but also for a place at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, the first time women’s boxing had featured as an Olympic sport. She was defeated in the 51 kg quarter-finals by Nicola Adams of the UK, but did succeed in getting a place for the Olympics. She was the only Indian woman to qualify for boxing event, with Laishram Sarita Devi narrowly missing a place in the 60 kg class.

Kom was accompanied to London by her mother and husband . Kom’s coach Charles Atkinson could not join her at the Olympic Village as he didn’t possess an International Boxing Association (AIBA) 3 Star Certification, which is mandatory for accreditation. She had all her luggage and passport stolen on the way to the selection camp in Bangkok, Thailand for her first Asian Womens Boxing Championships. The first Olympic round was held on 5 August 2012, with Kom defeating Karolina Michalczuk of Poland 19-14 in the third women’s boxing match ever to be fought at the Olympics. In the quarter-final, the following day, she defeated Maroua Rahali of Tunisia with a score of 15-6. She faced Nicola Adams of UK in the semi-final on 8 August 2012 and lost the bout 6 points to 11. However, she stood third in the competition and garnered an Olympic bronze medal. In recognition, the Manipur Government awarded her Rs 50 lakhs and two acres of land in a cabinet meeting held on 9 August 2012.

Though keen on representing India at the 2016 Rio Olympics, Kom was not able to qualify for the event. She continues to pursue the sport and train for the same, and is preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Super Fight League

Kom appeared on the final episode of the Super Fight League‘s mixed martial arts reality show – SFL Challengers. During this time Kom was in talks with owners Raj Kundra and Sanjay Dutt to work with the SFL in some manner other than being a fighter.

On 24 September 2012, the Super Fight League announced that Kom will serve as the SFL’s brand ambassador.

Achievements

International titles
Year Place Weight Competition Location
2001 Second 48 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States
2002 First 45 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships Antalya, Turkey
2002 First 45 Witch Cup Pcs, Hungary
2003 First 46 Asian Women’s Championships Hisar, India
2004 First 41 Women’s World Cup Tnsberg, Norway
2005 First 46 Asian Women’s Championships Kaohsiung, Taiwan
2005 First 46 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships Podolsk, Russia
2006 First 46 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships New Delhi, India
2006 First 46 Venus Women’s Box Cup Vejle, Denmark
2008 First 46 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships Ningbo, China
2008 Second 46 Asian Women’s Championships Guwahati, India
2009 First 46 Asian Indoor Games Hanoi, Vietnam
2010 First 48 Women’s World Amateur Boxing Championships Bridgetown, Barbados
2010 First 46 Asian Women’s Championships Astana, Kazakhstan
2010 Third 51 Asian Games Guangzhou, China
2011 First 48 Asian Women’s Cup Haikou, China
2012 First 41 Asian Women’s Championships Ulan Bator, Mongolia
2012 Third 51 Summer Olympics London, United Kingdom
2014 First 51 Asian Games Incheon, South Korea
National
  • Gold 1st Women Nat. Boxing Championship, Chennai 612.2.2001
  • The East Open Boxing Champ, Bengal 1114.12.2001
  • 2nd Sr World Women Boxing Championship, New Delhi 2630.12.2001
  • National Women Sort Meet, N. Delhi 2630.12.2001
  • 32nd National Games, Hyderabad 2002
  • 3rd Sr World Women Boxing Champ, Aizawl 48.3.2003
  • 4th Sr WWBC, Kokrajar, Assam 2428.2.2004
  • 5th Sr WWBC, Kerala 2630.12.2004
  • 6th Sr WWBC, Jamshedpur 29 November-3.12.2005
  • 10th WNBC, Jamshedpur lost QF by 14 on 5.10.2009

Awards and recognitions

Mary Kom set a new standard in amateur boxing without ever competing in professional boxing. In 2015, Kom became the first amateur to surpass several professional athletes in India in earnings, endorsements and awards. She is the first amateur athlete to win the Padma Bhushan.

 

For the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics

Media

Her autobiography, Unbreakable, was co-authored by Dina Serto and published by Harper Collins in late 2013.

In 2014, Priyanka Chopra played the main role of Mary Kom in Mary Kom, a biographical film about her life. Although the mother tongue of Mary is Kom, a Sino-Tibetan dialect, the movie is in Hindi.

The movie is directed by Omung Kumar and was released on 5 September 2014.

Personal life

Kom is married to the footballer Karung Onkholer (Onler). Kom first met her husband in 2000 after her luggage was stolen while travelling by train to Bangalore and thereafter to Delhi for a sports meet. In New Delhi while on her way to the National Games in Punjab she met Onkholer who was studying law at Delhi University. Onkholer was the president of the North East students body and helped Kom. Thus they became friends and thereafter started dating each other. After four years they were married in 2005.

Together they have 3 sons: twins Rechungvar and Khupneivar (born in 2007), and son Prince (born in May 2013).

Association with social causes

Kom is an animal rights activist, and supporter of PETA India, starring in an ad to call for an end to the use of elephants in circuses. “Circuses are cruel places for animals where they are beaten and tortured. As a mother, I can imagine what animals go through when their children are taken away from them to forcefully perform in circuses. It’s sad,” Kom has been quoted in the media.

Kom has also backed PETA India’s humane education campaign, Compassionate Citizen. She has written a letter to the education ministers of states and union territories across India requesting that the programme be incorporated into official school curriculums. In an interview in the Times of India she was quoted as saying, “One of the best ways to knock out cruelty to animals is to teach compassion to young people. Animals need us in their corner. With violence seemingly all around us, it is more important than ever that we teach lessons of respect and kindness in the classroom.”