She has achieved almost everything that women's boxing can offer, but five-time World Champion M.C. Mary Kom is still yearning for the greatest accolade in the world of sports — winning gold at the Olympics.
Mary's only appearance at the Olympics came at the London Games in 2012 when women's boxing was introduced for the first time at the quadrennial sports spectacle. Having moved up to the 51 kg category, she had ended up with a bronze medal.
She had admitted later that it was difficult to move out of her favourite 48 kg category — in which she had won her five world titles — but the change had to be made as it was not included at the Olympics or the Asian Games.
However, with the International Boxing Association (AIBA) debating over the prospect of including the 48 kilogram division at next year's Asian Games and probably the 2020 Olympics, Mary is filled with renewed hope.
"I still have not won an Olympic gold. That is my ultimate target. I am working very hard with the 2020 Olympics in mind. I am trying my best. The rest is up to God," the Manipur icon told IANS.
"As long as I am alive, winning gold at the Olympics will always be my greatest dream. That will remain a target till the end of my career," she added.
Mary added another title to her already overflowing trophy cabinet recently by winning gold at the Asian Women's Boxing Championship — her fifth title at the continental level — and has now set her sights on defending her Asian Games title next year.
That may prove to be a tall task for the average athlete, specially at 35, an age widely considered old and over the hill for a physically demanding sport like boxing.
Mary, however, does not let such mundane details distract her from her goal. She is determined to overcome the problem of advancing age just as she has defeated every other obstacle that has come her way since childhood.
"My real strength is my will power. An athlete needs to be mentally strong. This is more so in my case as I have had to prove myself to people right from the beginning.
"I have had to face a lot of obstacles. First of all I am a girl, and as a result I had to fight initial disaproval from my family and society in general when I took up boxing. Then I got married which meant I had to adjust my schedule and lifestyle. Then I became a mother which meant more adjustment," Mary said.
"Now I am fighting against age. At my age, it is a challenge to maintain fitness and compete against younger opponents. Now I have grown old for this sport. I have achieved a lot in my career. I have nothing left to prove. But I will keep on competing as long as my passion is alive. I want to wear the India jersey and contribute towards my country. I want to win medals for the country," she added.
With India winning five gold and two bronze medals at the AIBA Women's Youth World Championships last month, Mary is confident that changing social attitudes will see the country achieving even more glory in women's boxing in future.
"Social attitudes towards female participation in sports is changing slowly. Earlier girls from the north, specially Haryana and even those from the south, used to face a lot problems from their families while taking up boxing. This is true even now to some extent. But attitudes have changed," she asserted.
"People should let their daughters play sports. Only then we will win medals at the Olympics." (IANS)