Challenges Faced by The Legendary Indian Boxer Mary Kom

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Mary Kom is an internationally successful boxer today. But as easy as it may sound today with all the glory and fame associated with her name, her story is rife with challenges. And, as one can predict, the biggest challenge for her was poverty.

Mary Kom was born into a family that was financially hard-pressed and impoverished, and it was difficult for her parents to afford square meals a day for the children. In her biography, it is mentioned that they were so poor that she could never afford to follow a wrestler’s diet which tells us the Mary Kom struggle story. Her parents had to work hard in the fields to earn a living. Mary as well had to look after her younger sibling after attending school. Her life was full of challenges, but none of them could bridle her from achieving her dreams.

Struggles came early

The real-life event that inspired her to become a wrestler was the gold medal won by Dingko Singh at the 1989 Asian games. Mary was interested in sports as a child, but her circumstances didn’t allow her to take up training as a professional sportsperson. To the surprise of many, Mary Kom’s father, who was a wrestler in his youth, never allowed Mary to become a boxer. It was mainly the notion of gender stereotypes that drove his mind and prevented him from supporting his daughter’s dream. He believed that boxing was masculine and that Mary should never indulge in such sports. He was afraid that wrestling could be detrimental to Mary; being a girl, if she got her face hurt, it would not be easy for her to get married and lead a normal life.

Mary had to start training secretly. During her initial days, she didn’t receive support from anyone. Instead, she had to balance studies and household chores and look after her siblings with hard-core boxing training later. It was physically and psychologically exhausting. In 2000, when Mary Kom’s picture appeared in the newspaper, everyone, realizing her talent, started praising and acknowledging her for what she had achieved. Mary Kom’s biography tells us that she began to be hailed as the ‘Iron lady’ across the country.

The story of a woman who struggled till she succeeded

Life had thrown many curveballs at Mary, but she had successfully parried each. Not only poverty, but Mary also had to face the challenges arising out of deep-rooted prejudices. Wrestling was a masculine sport back then in a country like India. She had to struggle more than her male counterparts to gain even half the recognition that her male counterparts were receiving in the male-dominated wrestling world. Reminiscing about it, Mary Kom’s biography states that every medal she won reflected a story of struggles. The medals speak the story of a woman who has risen above prejudices and stereotypes and befriended victory.

Nothing came easy in the life of this internationally acclaimed pro-boxer. Being born to the poor family of Magte Tongpa Kom and Mangte Akanm in the Kangathei village in Manipur, she could hardly access training or any basic amenities that world-class athletes like her need. She was a raw talent who occupied a position on the global map only because of her talent and willpower. She could neither afford the equipment nor the training gear. In a family that had to work day and night to make ends meet, practicing boxing was a luxury, and she could never convince her parents of her dream.

Born to fight

In Mary Kom’s biography, there are some heart-touching lines from her father. You should read the book!

When Mary Kom started winning medals at the national level, and her family came to know about her pursuit, they were happy but afraid at the same time since poor families like theirs couldn’t support a woman in boxing. Her father told Mary that he would not be able to afford her a boxer’s diet and nutrition. But she was so determined that she told her father that even if others had a meal costing 50 INR per day, she would manage it with just 25 INR. And that was the moment that convinced her father, and he decided to support his daughter no matter what.

Even after winning five medals at the international championships, there was hardly any financial improvement to support her life and career. Though recognition came, poverty was refusing to part with Mary until she made her mark by winning at the Olympics. She has expressed in her biography that life began to look smoother as recognition found a way to her, thereby putting an end to her never-ending struggles. At 38, she reached the position she had longed for.

Mary Kom, as an inspiration

Having fought her way to fame, it is not surprising at all to see how Mary Kom still believes in fighting. A talent that had never gotten enough recognition or support in her childhood eventually became a formidable spirit that today distinguishes her from many other athletes. In Mary Kom’s biography, she describes that even though she is a mother and has almost achieved most of her dreams, she will continue to fight. She is ready to accept any challenge life throws at her. Her will to fight and come out as a winner is an inspiration for many women. Her story is a success tale that throws light on many other women who are already on a similar path braving akin challenges to fulfill their dreams and for them, Mary Kom is a fighter in true sense, living legend and inspiration in the truest sense of the word.