Apart from the members of various national camps, the campus of NIS Patiala is also utilised by a number of local youngsters. While it’s not uncommon to run into one of the more well-known names of Indian sport inside the complex, one little girl was clearly starstruck when she spotted MC Mary Kom among the row of cars parked outside the boxing hall on Friday evening. She rushed up to Mary, and thrust out a notepad and a pen. The girl knew her boxing for she wished Mary all the best for the Commonwealth Games. Mary smiled and signed the paper. The girl skipped away on getting the prized scribble.
Delivered through gritted teeth, the smile had, perhaps, taken every ounce of self-control. Mary was seething. Only minutes before, she had lost a bout to Pinki Jangra, for the women’s 51kg spot in the Indian team for the Commonwealth Games. Defeat is hard for any athlete. What made it harder for Mary was that losses have been rare for her.
In the last ten years, she has lost, perhaps, only five times in international competition even as she earned multiple World Championships, an Asian Games bronze and the 2012 Olympic bronze that made her a household name. In domestic competitions during the same period, only twice have her arms not been held aloft by the referee. The last was in 2009 — also against Jangra, at the Nationals in Jamshedpur.
It’s uncertain whether the 31-year-old’s loss in Patiala was as unexpected for her as it was, clearly, painful. At the culmination of the bout, both Jangra and Mary had gone to their respective corners with arms raised, as if celebrating the win. What added to the drama was that of the three cards chosen at random by the scoring computer, two had the scores level.
It doesn’t take much to get a conspiracy theory going at a boxing competition in India and the delay in announcing the winner was seen to indicate that the bout had been fixed in Mary’s favour. Even Sonia Lather, who had lost to Jangra a day before, started protesting. When the two judges were asked, both chose Jangra.
The decision didn’t go down well with Mary. She shook her head, muttering something about regional bias. She swore she would quit the sport. She promised she would launch a protest and call a press conference. She stormed off the stage and out of the hall, with husband Onler quietly following at a distance. Her immediate reaction was raw and understandable, if only for its honesty.
For most observers at the trials though, the result was fair. Mary was clearly in poor physical shape. Her ability to attack from angles was not on show. She walked continued…