London: Mary Kom was the centre of attraction at Sunday’s closing ceremony function at the Olympic Park. She spoke exclusively just before leaving for the ceremony. Excerpts from an exclusive chat:
Q: London has treated you really well. Isn’t it?
A: Carrying the Indian flag is always an honour and it is for the first time in my life I will be surrounded by the best athletes from my country, although the shooters, archers and badminton players have gone back to India early. On Saturday night, I was asked to carry the flag. I agreed because there was no more pressure on me and I didn’t want to lose out on a historic occasion. After all, this was the third time London were hosting the Olympics and they have done a great job.
Q: We have won six medals. Are you happy?
A: As a big country, our six medals is not a bad haul. Sushil Kumar was unlucky not to win gold. He is a strong man and really fighting well. I feel sad that he was hit by health reasons before the final. We could have won more medals if our men boxers lived up to their reputation. I am a little disappointed that Vijender, Devendro and Vikas Krishan missed out for various reasons. But our younger boxing lot still have age on their side.
Q: You have been extremely busy in London.
A: Oh yes. The last 72 hours have been extremely busy. Keeping media and sponsors commitment took away a lot of time. I barely had time for myself and only on Saturday I visited relatives who live in London. Onler (my husband) and my mum, like always, have been very understanding and realised that everyone wanted a piece of me. On Saturday, I went shopping too. I bought a lot of toys for my sons and a few Liverpool jerseys. Onler loves Liverpool football club and I have a close connection with the city because I had trained there with Charles (Atkinson) before the Olympics.
Tonight, we fly out to Delhi and my bags are packed. The first faces I want to see are my children’s. They are coming down from Imphal to Delhi with my friend and personal assistant Jimmy. I am sure they will be happy to get their toys. My bronze medal means little to my kids. That what makes sport a great leveller.
Q: Will you continue to box?
A: I have had a chance to discuss my future with my husband and close friends. One thing is for sure that I will not quit boxing and once I am back in Imphal, I will keep training the way I do. There are no major boxing events this year, but I am going to keep myself fit and explore other options in life too. My friends and relatives want me to fight in Rio Games in 2016. They are really pushing me to do this and I am asking myself, WHY NOT? If I remain fit and the world federation introduces the 48 kg division, I will surely have Rio in my next plans. I want to change the colour of my London medal.
Q: What are your immediate plans?
A: The awards and accolades have been coming in. The Manipur government has announced a financial award and also the land that I have been promised long time back. The next few weeks will be extremely busy as there are already so many programmes on the cards.
I am personally planning a big thanks-giving party in Imphal close to Christmas. This one is going to be a real big affair and Onler is going to help me plan this. I am planning to call all those who helped me during my struggling days and that include my first coaches. My father is the best man to make the list of people I am going to invite because he has seen it all.
Q: What about the academy?
A: I have dedicated my life to boxing and among the things I want to do is make my boxing academy work. It’s meant for kids in Manipur and if I can succeed, it will be my way of giving it back to a society that is suffering from economic and social issues. I need a lot of financial help and I am sure my Olympic success will attract sponsors who want to do something for the people of Manipur.
Q: Your popularity will make you a good face for a political party.
A: Yes, indeed. We are toying with the idea of joining politics. I have seen a lot of politicking and why not give it a shot someday? Either I or Onler will join mainstream politics one day and not to just become a face for a party. But we will restrict ourselves to sport and its development. There is a lot to do for sports and we need honest and dedicated people to do this. You have to be in the system to change it. I do not believe in a passive role. But, there is enough time to think about all this. I am just dying to see my children.