Padma Vibhushan for Mary Kom: Ultimate crowning of a great champion

Perhaps, the illustrious career of champion boxer MC Mary Kom has reached its zenith, and the country has honoured her stellar achievement with none other than Padma Vibhushan which is the highest civilian award in the country after the Bharat Ratna.  The award is given for exceptional and distinguished service without distinction of race, occupation, position, or sex. The recipients of the award include eminent and legendary figures like Physicist Satyendra Nath Bose who is best known for his works in quantum mechanics. Recent recipients of the award include late Arun Jaitley and late Sushma Swaraj. By virtue of her sheer perseverance and sustained and consistent top level performance at international boxing rings, MC Mary Kom is now in the league of greats like Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw, Vikram Sarabhai (who is considered to be the father of Indian space programme), Dr Manmohan Singh, MS Swaminathan (often called the Father of Green Revolution) and MF Husain, nicknamed the Picasso of India.  Chungneijang Mary Kom Hmangte or Mary Kom in short has been already and deservedly nicknamed Magnificent Mary Kom. If we must say, Mary Kom rightfully deserves the Padma Vibhushan for she has now become a symbol of women’s boxing in the entire country. If the first gold she won at Antalya, Turkey way back in 2002 was a historic one and a defining moment in her illustrious career, the latest gold she won at KD Jadhav Indoor Stadium, New Delhi on November 24, 2018 was not only a record-breaking one but also the most glorious one. She had already clinched the World Championship gold on five occasions — 2002, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2010 — besides bagging a silver on her debut in 2001. Very few athletes can stay in limelight for 16 years but Mary Kom is one of those rare exceptions. It was exactly 16 years ago Mary Kom won her first world boxing gold and she never faded away from limelight all these years. She has now surpassed Katie Taylor of Ireland who had won five golds.
The Magnificent Mary Kom is now tied with Cuba’s Felix Savon as the joint most successful boxer - men and women - in the World Championships history.  If her spectacular performances in the ring is an inspiration to all budding boxers, her upbringing and childhood struggle will certainly prove to be even more inspirational to all boys and girls struggling for success in life. Like many other successful sports persons of the State, Mary Kom was born to a very poor family at a remote village called Kangathei in Churachandpur district. Her parents, being tenant farmers used to toil on jhum fields every single day to earn a square meal a day.  She had to struggle really hard to pursue her penchant for sports, particularly athletics in the initial days and at the same time help her parents in domestic chores. Not surprisingly, it was Ng Dingko Singh who inspired Mary Kom to switch to boxing from athletics. Dingko became a sensation not only in Manipur but also in the entire country in 1998 when he won gold in the 1998 Bangkok Asian Games. Dingko’s childhood is even more touching for he grew up in orphanage. It was sheer grit, tenacity and dedication to their chosen fields that Dingko and Mary Kom overcame all obstacles and succeeded in glorifying their own names. Just as much as Mary Kom’s awesome achievements deserve appreciation, the contributions of all her coaches starting from the very initial days deserve acknowledgement. No doubt, Mary Kom deserves the Padma Vibhushan for her stellar achievements but bestowing titles or awards is not enough if Manipur must produce many more Mary Koms and superstars in all sports disciplines. There must be adequate infrastructure and institutional support for all sports disciplines.