The Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were to be a festive farewell parade for six-time world champion Mary Kom. Now the 39-year-old, five months shy of her 40th birthday, which is the age limit for amateur boxing at major events, could walk into the sunset without a final photo from the testimonial tournament podium.
Fate has given a cruel twist to the boxing legend.
During trials for the CWG, the London Olympics bronze medalist lost her footing as soon as she pulled away in the first round of the semi-finals (48kg) against two-time Youth Olympics champion Ritu Ghanghas . Mary screamed as she fell and slowly got to her feet. But she found it difficult to move freely, was in pain again and clutched her knee. If she had continued, it would have been reckless.
Nitu was declared the winner via a referee stoppage contest. The long-awaited fight between the 21-year-old future star and a veteran almost twice his age has ended prematurely.
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Soon, Mary hobbled out of the IG stadium, got into her SUV, and drove off. Mary doesn’t need a second CWG medal – she won gold at Gold Coast in 2018 – at the end of her career. But once she overcame the disappointment of a quarter-final exit at the Tokyo Olympics, her competitive spirit was reignited. She had trained, first in Manipur then in Delhi, as if she had everything to prove. The CWG was a clear target in his mind.
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Over a two-decade long career, Mary has consistently overcome obstacles, made comebacks after motherhood and bounced back from injury to win medals at the highest level. She had skipped the World Championship trials to make way for younger boxers. But at almost 40, her knee gave out as she wanted one last shot at in-ring glory.
Just two days ago, Mary posted a video of herself on Twitter with the caption: If you want a good result, TRAIN HARD.
— MC Mary Kom OLY (@MangteC) June 8, 2022
Chhote Lal Yadav, his longtime coach, says there was no hype in his social media post. She had fought against boxers in higher weight classes before the trials.
“She was training and training against those who were in the 54kg and 57kg category. She had worked very hard to prepare for the Commonwealth Games trials. She hasn’t had any injury problems so far. In training, she had shown the thirst to give the best of herself. She trained smart because she had to be aware of her age. Mentally too, she was positive,” said Chhote Lal.
To stay focused on training, mother-of-three Mary made the difficult decision to cut back on family time.
— MC Mary Kom OLY (@MangteC) May 19, 2022
After her tenure as an MP for Rajya Sabha recently ended, she moved to the IG Stadium Hostel as her training intensified and the CWG tracks got closer. “She made the decision to stay away from her children. It was not easy for her,” added Chhote Lal.
The best possible preparations
Among those watching the test matches closely was head national coach Bhaskar Bhatt. Mary, according to Bhatt, looked fine until the injury occurred.
“Over the past month and a half, his intensity in training was the highest I’ve ever seen. But you can’t predict something like an injury. It can happen to anyone. But in the Mary’s case, age is also a factor. I don’t think she’s ever had a serious knee injury. But at 40, things like that can happen even if you train as hard as you want and that you prepare well,” Bhatt said.
Do or don’t. There is no try. There are no shortcuts. ONLY HARD WORK. pic.twitter.com/LSoFbVJzhN
— MC Mary Kom OLY (@MangteC) May 10, 2022
It was too early in the fight to pass judgment on who was the best fighter of the day – Mary or Nitu? “Mary has all the experience and she’s very smart in the ring. She would have spent only the necessary energy. Nitu is also a very good boxer and that’s the future. It would have been a good fight. But it’s unfortunate how it ended,” the national head coach said.
Nitu will face Manju Rani in the final on Saturday for a spot on the Commonwealth Games team.
As for Mary, there has been no official communication on the nature of the injury. Chhote Lal said a clearer picture will emerge once Mary’s injury assessment is completed within a day. “I hope it’s not as bad as it looks. I don’t know what Mary has in mind (future competition), but it can’t be how she leaves a ring for the last Her story deserves a happy ending, one last waltz around the ring where she’s danced her whole life on quick feet, not a plume of smoke left by a retreating SUV.