Here are 10 inspiring facts about Mary Kom, who rose from extreme poverty and hardship to became five times World Boxing Champion. She is now popular in India due to her Bollywood biopic starring Priyanka Chopra.
1. Mary Comes From a Poor Family
Mary Kom comes from a small village in Manipur, India. Her parents were poor agricultural laborers, who lived in a hut-like house. Mary shared a tiny bedroom with her two sisters and a brother. Growing up, it was rare for her to have fish or meat in her diet, her parents could not afford it.
2. Inspired By Dingko Singh
Mary was interested in athletics from a young age. She switched to boxing after being inspired by Dingko Singh from Manipur who won a gold medal at the Asian Games in 1998.
Like Mary, Dingko also came from a poor family. He had received a hero’s welcome when he came back after his Asian Games Victory. People lined up on the streets to welcome Dingko and collected money for him.
3. Mary’s Father
Mary did not tell her parents that she was training to become a boxer. When Mary’s father found out, he tried to dissuade her from boxing. He told her, “With a battered and bruised face you should not expect to get married.” She also met with disapproval from her clan members and was ridiculed by boys in her hometown.
Later, sensing her determination Mary’s father (Mangte Tonpa Kom) sold his prized possession, the family cow, for $285 to pay for her travel and cover the cost of her training.
4. First Indian Female Boxer
She is the first Indian female boxer to qualify for and win a medal in the Olympics. She won a bronze medal at the 2012 summer Olympics held in London, United Kingdom.
5. World Amateur Boxing Champion.
Mary is a five time World Amateur Boxing champion. She is the only female boxer to win a medal in 6 consecutive world championships. She won a silver medal in her maiden entry and followed up with 5 gold medals in her subsequent appearances.
6. Dislikes Injuring Opponents
Mary dislikes injuring her opponents. She says, “If I’ve injured my opponent, I often go to her and say sorry after getting out of the ring.”
7. Hardly Known In India
Even after winning 5 world championships, Mary Kom was hardly known in India. It was only after her bronze medal victory at the London Olympics that people began to notice her incredible achievements.
In a country with barely any athletic achievements, it is surprising that a rare athletic find like Mary was practically ignored by the media and sponsors. She has struggled to find recognition and financial rewards matching her achievements.
Mary is often astonished by the amount of money offered to cricket players in India, through endorsements and auctions at the Indian Premier League for cricket.
9. The Man Behind This Successful Woman
Mary’s husband, K. Onler Kom is her biggest supporter and has been functioning as her mentor, motivator and manager, ever since he met her as an 18 year old teenager in 2001.
Onler helped raise funds when Mary did not have enough money to take part in her first Amateur World Boxing Championship in USA, 2001. He takes every effort to see that Mary is always focused on her training.
10. Mary Kom Boxing Academy
In 2007 Mary set up the MC Mary Kom Boxing Academy in her current home town (Langol, in Imphal). Her husband takes care of the academy while she is away training, travelling and competing in tournaments. The academy has about 40 students out of which 15 live with Mary in her home.
Hope you have enjoyed these Mary Kom facts. Make sure to read the autobiography of this truly inspiring sports personality, aptly titled Unbreakable.