Mary Kom boxes for grassroots development

The London Olympics medallist, who runs an academy in Imphal, feels support from corporates must come early to nurture talent.

By Naveen Peter

When Mary Kom was rising through the ranks in the Indian circuit, women's amateur boxing was a relatively unknown commodity in the country.

And with women trying to find a toehold in sports in a male dominated and conservative society, the boxing legend from Manipur would often find it difficult to garner enough support to fulfill her dream. But those hurdles never stopped the Indian ace as she went on to raise the bar for the generation to follow.

Mary Kom might have gone on to become the benchmark for women’s boxing in the country, but the 37-year-old believes that athletes in India can achieve much more if they are offered much-needed support early in their career.

“Even after I had won the world championships three-four times, it was very difficult,” shared MC Mary Kom in a conversation with Indian winter Olympian Shiva Keshavan during an Instagram Live chat.

“There are very few companies that come forward but that happens only after you have reached the highest level, like winning a medal at the World Championships or the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games or at the Olympics. 

“I believe, if individuals with high potential are given the right support at the grassroots level, then they can go the distance and make it to the highest level. 

“I think we lack this support and financial backup. Hence, we are unable to produce top athletes who can win medals on their own at all levels,” reckoned the London 2012 bronze medallist.

Mary Kom’s future plans 

Though the boxing great acknowledged that the situation had taken a turn for the good over the past few years, Mary Kom was vocal about increased support for the budding athletes in various disciplines, something she would love to work on once she decides to hang up her gloves.

“We need people and organisations to come forwards and help these athletes and I individually would want to be a part of the organisation and help and support these upcoming athletes,” she said.

“But with the Olympics postponed I will only be free and able to do so once it is over. We need to unite. It’s only possible if we all come together and support these athletes.”

Mary Kom has been running the Mary Kom - SAI Boxing Academy in Imphal since 2007. While over the years, the academy has helped many youngsters find a way of life, the Indian boxer is keen to spread her wings even further post-retirement.

“The main reason for opening the academy was to support all the youngsters who could not afford the training even though they have the potential to do much bigger in life,” she said.

“I try to help children who cannot provide for school or proper nutrition. This is my take on giving something back to our country by helping the kids. Currently, I try my best to give as much time as I can but the time will come when I retire and then I can dedicate all my time in full-time coaching and providing training facilities.”

Mary Kom has qualified for what will be her second - and most likely last - Olympic campaign in Tokyo next year.