London: Mary Kom took her London Olympic semifinal in her stride at the Excel Arena in London on Wednesday afternoon. There was no outbreak of emotions, just a tad disappointed as she lost a close bout against crowd favourite Nicola Adams of Great Britain. Excerpts from an exclusive interview:
Q: How are you reacting to the defeat?
A: God has plans for every one and He had one for me. So, I will be happy with an Olympic bronze medal. Although I aspired for gold, I realise that competing in a weight category for which I was not cut out, is indeed difficult. I have won four world championships in the 46 kg category. To compete in the 51 kg division was a challenge for me. Still I prepared myself for the last one year. Nicola (Adams) and Cancan Ren are better suited for his class.
Q: You hinted the scoring could have been better against Nicola…
A: I don’t want to give excuses. Nicola was better than me and scored crucial points in a close contest. Scoring in boxing is a very subjective matter. Even if I may think that I am scoring the points, the judges may think differently. But I respect their decision. Boxing, like martial arts, is not only about killer instinct and throwing punches. It teaches you discipline and the ability to respect your opponent and take the bad decisions in your stride. I have learnt a lot in my career.
Nicola was the better puncher on Wednesday. She read my game well and didn’t hurry to score points. That’s why all four rounds were close. I had anticipated this. Our last fight in the world championship in China was also almost identical. She was a mixture of caution and aggression.
Q: Any regrets?
A: I must thank my coach Charles Atkinson and the boxing federation in believing in me. That’s why the bronze medal makes the Olympic venture a special one. Interestingly, when I played my first world championship in Scranton, Pennsylvania in the US in 2001, I won silver in the 48 kg class. So the Olympic gold was not in my name. But I have no regrets.
Hopefully, women’s sport will now get the due recognition in India. Our media talks about Vijender Singh as the pin-up boy. After London, they will also talk about a Mary Kom! And then there is Saina Nehwal. I am sure she will be a prospect for a gold medal in Rio 2016.
Q: You said sorry to your fans. Why?
A: Considering all the support I got from every corner, I want to apologise for not winning the gold. But I must tell everyone that in a match there cannot be two winners. I tried my best but sometimes your best is not enough. A sportsperson is incomplete with the fans and well-wishers. I have received so many good luck messages on Facebook. I hear cricketers have compared by bronze to a gold medal. This is unbelievable. I feel blessed.
Q: What’s next? Any chance of another Olympics at the age of 33?
A: It’s time to go shopping for my kids. Onler, my husband, has come over and without him this Olympic dream would not have been possible. He has been a true friend, guide and manager. We haven’t talked about Rio Olympics. It is four years away and we can think about it later. My children are growing up and I need to spend some quality time at home.
And, I don’t want to miss the closing ceremony on August 12. I missed the opening because I was training in Liverpool. At that point, preparing for my fights was priority. Now the burden of expectation is off my shoulder.I can walk around with pride because an Olympic medal is the dream of every athlete and I have one after braving the odds of life for more than a decade.