It was a heartbreaking moment for boxing legend Mary Kom, when the bout she had believed to have won against Colombian Ingrit Valencia at the Tokyo Olympics, turned out to be her last at the games.
The 38-year-old pugilist, who was seen smiling and raising her hand in victory after her bout against the Rio Olympics bronze medallist, realized she had lost to Valencia in a 3:2 split decision in the quarter-final bout in the women’s flyweight (51 kg) category, only after seeing a tweet by Sports Minister Kiren Rijuju 10 minutes later.
The six-time world champion, who had won a bronze in the London Olympics in 2012, was aiming for her second medal this time.
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“I wanted to win a medal for India and to be honest, in the ring I believed I had won and for 10 minutes after that also it never struck to me that I had lost the match. I had missed the announcement that was made in the ring, because in my mind I had it won and I had raised my hand also. Later, when I was in the doping room, my coach told me ‘you were winner, don’t be sad’, and I was still not able to understand why he was saying this. It was only after I got a mobile notification from Kiren Rijiju that is when I realised that I had actually lost the fight and I could not control myself emotionally. And the rules now are such that we cannot challenge the decision to review the fight,” News18 quoted her as saying.
Alleging that the Tokyo Olympics was “badly organised”, Mary said she felt being treated indifferently and mentally harassed just before her bout.
“Just 10 seconds before my bout, I was asked to change my jersey by officials who I am guessing were from the IOC. I argued over this a bit, but my fight was about to begin and I was running out of time,” she told the media.
“They gave us a different T-shirt saying this is what I will have to wear or else I cannot go out there. My coaches also tried to reason, but we did not have the time to argue. I thought it will be better to follow what there are saying, and get on with the match. At that time I did feel they were trying to harass me mentally just before my bout,” she said.
Slamming the jury for ‘poor judgment’, the boxer said she was at a loss to understand the scoring pattern from the first round itself.
“After the first round, the score was 1-4 in favour of the other opponent and I could not believe it, as we did get into a proper fight. I could not understand it. Yet, in the next two rounds, I gave my best and I thought I had won it. But I still don’t understand how I could not win. I felt so bad when I realised it, and this is the first time I had faced such poor judging,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics will be Mary Kom’s last Olympics as under AIBA rules boxers above 40 are not eligible to compete in international bouts. Mary Kom will be 41 by the time the Paris Olympics is held in 2024. She, however, aims to try her luck in the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games next year.
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Expressing regret that she has failed to keep her promise to Rijiju to bring home a medal, Mary has urged her countrymen to support all the boxers competing in Tokyo.
“I could not give back to the people who prayed for me, wished me luck and supported me in this campaign. I had promised Rijiju sir, I will at least get a medal, if not the gold. I wanted to give him a return gift of sort, but that is not possible now. It cannot be fulfilled, winning the medal for the country. I am thankful and grateful to all the fans and I want to tell them that keep supporting all our boxers in Tokyo. I want to apologise to India for not winning an Olympics medal,” she said.