Calcutta: The loss to Great Britain’s Nicola Adams in the 51kg semi-final of the London Olympics still rankles, but M.C. Mary Kom is enjoying all the attention.
On her first visit to the city since winning the bronze medal last month, Mary Kom was grinning from ear to ear. Never for a moment was she annoyed by the constant jostling and pushing that remained a feature at every felicitation she attended on Thursday.
“Everyone recognises me these days… The love and support of the people has helped me reach here. I am grateful to all,” she said, as her husband wrapped his protective arm around her.
What has been the biggest difference between the Mary Kom of today and the one before the Olympics? “I remain the same person… Only my confidence and determination have gone up by miles,” she told The Telegraph during a brief chat.
The five-time world champion was felicitated by the Indian Chamber of Commerce and the Bengal Chamber of Commerce, besides chief minister Mamata Banerjee, on Thursday.
Mary Kom doesn’t believe that the high expectations will mean added pressure. “There’ll be no pressure as such… Everyone’s happy with my performance in London… I’m the only one who is not happy as I had expected better results. I tried to win the gold but couldn’t… Hopefully, next time I’ll finish best,” she said.
The 29-year-old says age will not be a factor in her quest for gold in 2016. “I’m preparing to compete in the 51kg… I will concentrate on that category now. But if 48kg competition is allowed in Rio de Janeiro, it will not be difficult,” a confident Mary Kom said.
She said better infrastructure was needed for boxing. “Attention needs to be paid to infrastructure…The facilities need to be the same all over India.”
What are her plans for the academy? “I started a boxing school in 2007 in Imphal. Without proper infrastructure, we have to train in the open. We need to upgrade the facilities. I share my experience with all the trainees. Let’s settle down a bit and then we can extend centres to Calcutta, Assam and other states.”
Terming the city as her “second home”, she didn’t forget to mention her fondness for rice and fish. “Like all Bengalis, rice and fish remain the staple diet for us too. I stayed at the SAI campus at Salt Lake during the national camp in 2005 and didn’t have a problem with the diet. I always felt at home…”
She didn’t forget to wish Yuvraj Singh, who is likely to return to international cricket in Visakhapatnam after battling a rare germ cell cancer. “I wish Yuvraj all the very best.”
She also had a word of advice for those who failed to win a medal in London. The message was to not give up and keep striving hard for a medal. “To be an Olympian is very tough... To qualify is difficult... If Mary Kom can get a medal, why not others... If I, being a mother of two, can win a medal, so can you all. Take me as an example and don’t give up...
“This is my message to you. All the best for Rio. Please support them for Rio...” she appealed to the gathering.
Bengal’s Joydeep Karmakar, who came fourth in the 50m rifle prone and narrowly missed a medal, was among those present at the felicitation.
At Bengal Chamber of Commerce, Mary Kom cut a cake, resembling a boxing glove, to celebrate her triumph. Besides Karmakar, archer Rahul Banerjee was also felicitated.