Mary Kom won the bronze in the women’s boxing and in the process won the hearts of a billion Indians.
The mother-of-two had to move up in weight from 48 kg (not available at the Olympics) and she was defeated in the semi-final by the UK’s Nicola Adams in the 51 kg category. Up against a younger, taller and stronger opponent, the result was not a surprise but perhaps the reaction was.
It has been a big deal for this 29 year-old resident of the little-known north-eastern state of Manipur, a part of the country that gets little exposure inside India, never mind outside. This week though, there have been reporters from all over the sub-continent buzzing around Kom’s home close to the border with Burma.
It is something of a troubled region, troubled by poverty and violence. Kom’s father-in-law was murdered. There are frequent power cuts but for the fight with Adams, authorities ensured that there was no danger of locals not being able to watch on television and kept the power flowing.
For a while at least, Kom, known as Magnificent Mary, has put Manipur on the map.
“I always remember I am also so small and Manipur is very small, but if I pray and if I do very hard work then I will win,” said Kom in London.
As detailed before, India may see itself as a rival for China in a number of fields but sport is not yet one of them. While the Middle Kingdom is battling the United States at the top of the medal standings, the second-most populous nation in the world is way down in the current medal standings.
But 2012 has been its most successful Olympics ever and has beaten its one gold and two bronze from Beijing 2008 in terms of total medals won.