New Delhi: Six-time world champion Mary Kom might have had to settle for a silver medal at the recently-concluded Asian Boxing Championships, but the 38-year-old pugilist is ready to go all out in order to ensure a gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics which will be her swansong.
Mary Kom had finished her campaign with a silver medal at the 2021 Asian Boxing Championships after going down fighting against two-time world champion Nazym Kyzaibay in a high-octane 51kg final. Mary Kom used all her experience against the Kazakh boxer and made her work hard but it wasn’t enough as the latter tilted the hard-fought game successfully in her favour and emerged champion with a narrow 29-28, 28-29, 30-27, 29-28, 28-29 scoreline.
In an interaction with ANI, Mary Kom opened up on her expectations from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, her performance at the Asian Championships and also how effective Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju has been in improving the image of Indian sports.
“Personally, I was keen to see how I am responding in a match environment of a tournament. I have been working to perfect some techniques and increase my strength and stamina after recovering from dengue. As much as winning is important, I have also been working on fine tuning some of the tactics all this while in training and I am happy to see them being successfully executed,” said Mary Kom.
“As far as this championship is concerned, I am happy with the way I fought, though a lot of work needs to be done. I am happy that despite being away from matches and active sparring I could execute a lot of what I had planned with my coach. I am happy that I could pick my 7th medal here and am grateful to everyone including BFI, SAI and my family. I am looking forward to the Olympics now,” she added.
When asked about her hopes from the upcoming Tokyo Olympics, the 38-year-old said: “Tokyo will be my last Olympics, as age definitely matters here. For athletes time is crucial and it is not my will, it is the mandate that sets age limit of 40 for boxers, which however has been extended to 41 due to the pandemic and the event getting postponed for over a year. Olympics is every sportsperson’s dream to participate and win a medal, it changes lives and gives a great sense of pride.”
The pugilist also spoke highly about the Sports Minister and how Rijiju has played a key role in helping the athletes get better facilities and training opportunities.
“With regards to our Indian Sports Minister Kiren Rijiju, I would say he has been actively working towards improving the image of Indian sports and he is proving to be a great leader under who’s guidance Indian sports and sportspeople can flourish. He has been constantly encouraging the players and has also taken extra efforts to create a healthy ecosystem for sports enthusiasts, even during the current scenario,” said Mary Kom.
Talking about the recently-concluded Asian Championships and her performance, the highly respected athlete said: “The entire boxing contingent welcomed the Asian Championship as this was the only opportunity to not only compete with the opponents but also assess ourselves. I had started to train, optimise and regain my agility, stamina, as well as optimum fitness and this tournament, came at the right time. My coaches and support staff have chalked a plan to continue working hard and I will join the camp a day later and start my training. Every championship I take part in, irrespective of the results, there are takeaways, and this was no different. Coming here it was also interesting to gauge the extent of preparations of other Olympic qualified boxers.”
The boxer has been a top athlete for a long time now, but it still impresses one and all as to how she manages to contest every bout with the same passion and determination.
Talking about her motivation, the pugilist said: “We were never prepared for this invisible threat and like everyone else it was surely not easy to deal with it. Our training sessions were disrupted, and tournaments were scrapped, it was and continues to be an uncertain period which has prevailed for too long. We have been confined at home, regular camps could not be conducted and training at home while juggling with family was surely not what we are used to.”
“We managed to do what was best possible in those circumstances. But I am glad that ahead of the tournament, I could join Army Sports Institute at Pune, where I started to spar after a long time. It was quite helpful and helped me to be match ready even in such a short time,” she added.
Lastly, Mary Kom also spoke about how the Covid-19 pandemic affected her preparation before the Asian Championships and she also shed light on how bio-bubbles can be mentally taxing, but players need to adapt as it is the new norm.
“To be honest, there is only one thing that keeps me going and that is my love for boxing. It may have been years since I am boxing but my love for it has not fainted. My passion towards the individual sport is surely the biggest one, and the constant encouragement and love that my family gives makes me stronger and keeps me motivated to achieve more. I could not emphasis enough on how my personal coach Chhote Lal Yadav has been my constant pill of inspiration. I have always cherished the small milestones in life which build the hunger to get more and I hope I can fulfil my dream of winning a gold medal at the Olympics,” said the 38-year-old.
“We have been training ourselves in bio-bubble since the first lockdown was announced so I am now used to it. We need to be cautious as we are aware about its consequences. Keeping the current situation into consideration, we need to be patient and should be adaptive. Our aim is to stay fit and stay match-ready and that is all I am focusing on. I have grown stronger mentally and focused on my goals keeping all necessary safety protocols in check. It will be an Olympics with a lot of first time and athletes will have to continue training in the bio-buddle and that is part of our life now,” Mary Kom signed off. (ANI)