NEW DELHI – A month ago, India’s diminutive female boxer Mary Kom was just an occasional story on the sports pages. With an Olympic medal in hand, she has become the nation’s newest sports star and the “Magnificent Mary” seized the front pages.
Kom, the 29-year-old mother of 5-year-old twin boys, was guaranteed at least a bronze medal with a victory Monday and many were hoping she might bring back the first ever gold medal won by an Indian woman.
But she lost her semifinal match to British boxer Nicola Adams at the London Games Wednesday.
Despite an impressive five world championships, Kom has been outshone by athletes with fewer achievements who have received lucrative endorsement contracts.
Badminton player Saina Nehwal, who peaked at No. 2 in the rankings and won a bronze medal last week at the Olympics, is hard to miss in newspapers and on TV. So is tennis player Sania Mirza, who is ranked 256th in the world and got knocked out of the Olympic women’s doubles in the first round.
Kom has a job as a junior police officer, which pays her about 20,000 rupees ($365) a month, and at least two endorsements, one of them a nutritional supplement.
She is from Manipur, an insurgency wracked state in India’s remote northeast. The eldest of four siblings, she worked as a child in the fields to help out her poor farming family.
In the early days as a boxer, she saved part of her food allowance to buy boxing gloves, she said in a recent interview.
She won four world titles in the 46-kilogram category and one at 48 kilograms. But had to beef up for the 51-kilogram category in London. When she isn’t training or raising her sons Rengpa and Naimai, she trains young boxers at her academy outside Imphal, the capital of Manipur. —AP