Mary Kom
1983 - Present

Read on for specific facts, but let it be said that boxer Mary Kom is pretty amazing. Like many others, I’d never heard of her until the movie Mary Kom came out, despite her taking home more significant wins for India than many cricketers making about a thousand times as much.

Her drive and toughness are impressive—all of this accomplished while working to help her family, caring for younger siblings, having deficient diet and gear, and then, later on, being a wife and mother. All of this without much national support, even for major international competitions in which she brought so much honor to her country.

She continues to be an inspiration, particularly for poor, young children in her home area, and actively works to create opportunities for them, as with her free academy. This humility in service is one of many ways Mary acts out her Christian faith and loves her neighbor.

Mary Kom : Basic Facts

Born: Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom was born 1 March 1983 in Kangathei, Manipur, India.

Parents: Mangte Tonpa Kom (father) & Mangte Akham Kom (mother), poor landless farm workers

Religion: Christian. Faith plays a strong part in Mary Kom’s life, and she prays small prayers before practice, training, bouts, and even inside the ring. She also displays her faith through her service to community and country, pairing action with principle. One of her favorite Bible stories is that of David and Goliath—quite fitting for a small fighter.

Education:

  • Loktak Christian Model High School in Moirang (up to Class VI standard)
  • St Xavier Catholic High School in Moirang (up to Class VIII)
  • Adimjati High School in Imphal (incomplete; examination finished nontraditionally)
  • Churachandpur College

Husband: Karun Onkholer “Onler” Kom

Children: Twins Rechungvar & Khupneivar (born 2007) and Prince (born 2013)

Languages: Kom (a Sino-Tibetan language), Meiteilon (another Sino-Tibetan language, the lingua franca of her area), English, Hindi, others(?)

Biography: Unbreakable, by Mary Kom and Dina Serto (2013)

Movie: Mary Kom (2014) starring Priyanka Chopra. This movie is very well done and well acted. It effectively shows the life situation and struggles Mary faced, but also her will power, determination, and toughness, how hard she trained, how good she was at fighting. I also liked seeing the growing romance between her and Onler, who thought Mary was incredible and married her after dating for about four years. Rather than pull her away from her dream, he supported her so she could keep going, keep winning, even as a wife and mother.

Watching Onler in a separate interview, it’s good to see the way he manages for her, prays for her, and watches the children so she can train. He doesn’t look threatened by her achievements. Instead, he’s glowing with pride when he talks about her.

"Magnificent Mary"

Born Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom to the mostly Christian Kom sub-tribe in the hill country of Manipur, India, Mary is a well-known face in Indian women’s boxing. It wasn’t an easy road. Her family wanted her to do well in school and go on to get married—not get into fights. There was a concern that getting hit would mess up her face, and then no one would want to marry her, and the fact that women’s boxing was so new made it even more difficult.

But Mary was a feisty girl. She had always loved sports but was inspired to pursue boxing by the success of another fighter from Manipur: Navy boxer Ngangom Dingko Singh, widely considered the finest boxer India has ever produced. And so she began secretly training with Manipur State Boxing Coach N. Narjit Singh in Khuman Lampak, Imphal and began winning competitions after only three months of training.

This was how her family found out, and they were very surprised! Still, her father is recorded as saying, “Even when she was very young, she was fast and strong like the boys. Maybe God gave her this talent for boxing.”

Mary won five world championships in a row—two of them after giving birth to twins—and an Olympic bronze medal, not to mention a large number of other championships and awards. In 2013, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s third highest honor, and has since been nominated for a seat on the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of India’s parliament, beginning April 2016.

Check out this article by 1848 Magazine for more information about this inspirational powerhouse.

Random Facts About Her Home, Manipur

  • In terms of religion, most Manipuris are either Christian or Hindu—about 41% each. Religious minorities include Buddhists, Muslims, Sanamahists, and others.
  • Manipur has also been called Kangleipak and Meeteileipak in historical texts.
  • Some think Manipuris are the Gandharvas of Vedic legend, heavenly singers and dancers. 
  • Manipur is hard to get to. You can fly in from Kolkata or take a bus to Imphal, but train service is pretty much off the menu.
  • It’s home of the world’s only “floating park,” Kaibul Lamjao National Park in Loktak Lake.
  • Most Manipuris come from a handful of tribes, such as the Meitei, Naga, Kuki, Zomi, and Pangal. Most of these are of Sino-Tibetan origin and speak Sino-Tibetan languages.
  • Imphal is home of the famous All Women (Ima Keithel) market, in which only women may sell goods—and do they sell a wide array of them courtesy of around 4,000 women vendors!
  • In the time of the British Raj, Manipur was a princely state. The Kingdom of Manipur later elected to join with India, rather than Burma, but this accession is contested by some both within and without the state, sometimes violently. (Thus, it is one of India’s “sensitive areas,” periodically difficult to access.)


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