Lifestyle & Belief

Olympic profile: MC Mary Kom


Indian boxer MC Mary Kom works out during a training session for the 2012 London Olympics at the Balewadi Sports Complex in Pune. From her beginnings as a poor farmers' daughter in a remote and troubled corner of India, 'Magnificent Mary' has fought her way up to become five-times world boxing champion.


Punit Paranjpe

Name: Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, also known as MC Mary Kom, or just Mary Kom

Nickname: "Magnificent Mary"

Country: India 

Event: Women's Boxing

Age: 29

Height: 5' 2"

Weight: 105 lbs

Competed before? Five-time world champion, but new to the Olympic scene. 

Why we're watching: Mary Kom is an inspiration. She has overcome gender bias, poverty, the limitations of her small size, and the disadvantages of the small region she calls home in order to become a professional athlete. She hopes to win a gold medal before retirement, and to attract some attention to Manipur, a troubled part of India where she was raised. She has a positive attitude and a lot of determination, but it won't be easy to bring a gold home from London. Mary Kom has had to up her weight class in order to compete at the Olympic level. Fingers crossed! 

Biggest obstacle: Manipur is a part of India that is plagued by violence. There are insurgents fighting over territory, bombings, murders, and kidnappings. Mary Kom's father-in-law was murdered by rebels about three years ago. Mary Kom herself grew up in poverty, and she and her relatives continue to face everyday obstacles living in Manipur. In September last year, the BBC was in Manipur to film her training; at that time, her family was concerned about food and fuel access due to a blockade that made it difficult to get supplies. 

Rival: Mary Kom doesn't have one. "I have not lost to the same boxer twice," Kom told Open Magazine. The best part? She isn't trying to brag. Mary Kom is confident, not cocky. She's worked quietly and tirelessly to rise through the ranks. Her father told the BBC that his daughter did not initially tell her parents about her early success in boxing: "We only found out when we read in the papers of her success in a local competition. In fact, I didn't really want to encourage her to become a sportsperson because I thought it would cost a lot of money."

Any free time? Though being a competitive athlete is hard work, Mary Kom finds time to spend time with her family and to run a program for young boxers in Manipur. She opens her home to children between the ages of 11 and 18 who manage to keep up with an exhausting training schedule.

Double trouble: Mary Kom and husband Onler are the proud parents of twin boys. Mary Kom hopes to win a gold medal for her sons' fifth birthday, which falls on August 5th of this year. 

Where she got her punch: Mary Kom told the BBC in an interview that she loved to watch action movies when she was young — especially Jackie Chan movies. Now, if only watching a few Jackie Chan flicks were enough to make it to the Olympics...

Quote to remember: Likening her story to that of David facing Goliath, Mary Kom says, "I always remember I am also so small and Manipur is very small, but if I pray and if I do very hard work then I will win."