Monday, December 10, 2018
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There’s no one like Mary

For eight years, her 6th World Championships gold medal eluded her. Mary Kom has finally ended the wait08 Dec 2018 | 1:34 AM

Homework and hard work was central to Mary Kom’s successful return to top of the podium at the World Women’s Boxing Championships.

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Vinayak Padmadeo

Homework and hard work was central to Mary Kom’s successful return to top of the podium at the World Women’s Boxing Championships. Even before her opponents set their feet in New Delhi, the die was cast by the support cast in Mary Kom’s corner that included her husband Onler and her long-time confidant and coach Chhote Lal Yadav.

Onler had recorded Mary Kom’s bout against Kazakhstan’s Aigerim Kassenayeva and North Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi. Mary had easily beaten Kassenayeva to win the Silesian Open in Poland and Kim to win the Asian Championships that were held in Vietnam last year. Both the pugilists were expected  to provide Mary a stiff fight in her quest to win the sixth gold medal that had eluded her for eight years. And hence, the team needed to pick holes in their fighting styles before the big show.

The idea was to stay on the counter-attacking play as both these girls are aggressive boxers. It didn’t work initially as the Kazakh did a Mary on Mary by waiting to hit on the counter. But a slight tweak and the homework brought her home. A few feints from her leading left arm opened the floodgates for the 35-year-old as she picked her opponent on the counter. The result was a resounding 5-0 unanimous decision.

In the semifinal against Kim, Mary ran into another challenge. Despite familiarity with her opponent, Kim’s aggression and her longer reach was making things tough. Another slight adjustment — she started to move sideways and back to avoid Kim’s powerful left hook — and Kim didn’t know what hit her. Kim lost 5-0. Mary completed her dream run with another resounding 5-0 unanimous win over Ukraine’s Hanna Okhota in the final.

“I call her the Muhammad Ali of women’s boxing. I remember she was furious when the Kazakh boxer started defensively. But we told her to use her jabs and feints, and there was no stopping her,” Yadav recalled. “The other big thing that stunned her opponents was her quick punches. Most of the girls were caught off-guard because of her punches,” he said.

Hard yards

All this quick thinking would have come to naught if not for the hard yards put months in advance. The training plan was made days after conclusion of the 2018 Commonwealth Games, which were  held in April.

The workload initially was planned to work on her strength and punching technique — the school fight (the two left jabs followed by a straight right), a technique devised to hone her basic skill. Then it evolved into a punishing routine of fighting seven-round bouts, with each round timed at four minutes.

Slowly, the duration of bouts was brought in sync with the stipulated three-minute rounds. Twice a week, endurance and sprint training were added to the already cramped training schedule. Here, too, her competitive spirit took over. She would take only 12 minutes to complete eight rounds on tracks of the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium. This was followed by a 150m sprint on the stairs of the stadium. “You can’t imagine how drained she would get after the workouts. Her shoes and socks would be drenched in sweat. She would carry her spare training gear. She is unique,” Yadav said.

Mary Kom used the same words to describe herself days after winning the title. She said: “There will be no other Mary Kom. I am unique and different from others.” Not a soul in India will disagree. She is indeed one in a billion.

Gearing up for 2019

After the highs of the World Championships, one would think that the six-time gold medallist would be lying low and enjoying some downtime with family. But no. Mary has been busy switching time between her family and public appearances for various brands she endorses. And yet, she has been able to find time for her training. Mary will have to jump to the 51kg weight class as her weight category (48kg) is not part of the Olympics. So before she starts in right earnest to gain weight and do strength training, she is keeping herself ring-ready with a light training routine. The 45-minute routine involves running, shadow boxing, core strengthening exercises and planks. The real work will start in January. She is expected to face boxers who will have a  height advantage. To counter this, Mary’s coaching staff will spar with tall boxers, including male boxers. “We will get tall boxers from the youth category as well as a few girls from the 54 to 57 kg weight class to train with her. This will be enough to counter the height advantage,” her coach Chhote Lal Yadav said. 

There’s no one like Mary
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