After realising that her dream of winning another Olympic medal had ended, Mary embraced her opponent Ingrit Valencia and lifted the Colombian’s arms.
A moment to savour, indeed — the 2016 Rio Olympics bronze medallist (Valencia) hugging the 2012 London Olympics bronze winner (Mary). A heart-to-heart after the bout.
“Some sports have legends, boxing has Mary Kom,” the commentator said as emotions ran high.
The motley crowd at the arena cheered for Mary, 38, as she left the hall. Thursday’s last-16 bout became her last at the Olympics as the International Boxing Association (AIBA) doesn’t allow boxers above the age of 40 to compete at the Games.
It was Mary’s dream to win another medal at the Olympics, especially a gold.
“I have all the medals in my hand. It’s not easy to count them. What is left is the Olympic gold medal. That is driving me and pushing me to carry on,” she had said after winning the first round.
That dream was shattered by the tiniest of margins. The 38-year-old was visibly tired in the last few moments of the third and final round. The mind was goading her to go for the jugular but the body wasn’t willing.
Her punches, jabs, crosses seemed to touch thin air. In the last 90 seconds, Mary was mostly evading, trying not to get hit. She had chosen the safer route, hoping that her body of work in the second round and the start of the third would help her. But you can’t leave anything to chance at the Olympics.
It is about remaining steadfast for three rounds, over nine minutes – a total of 540 seconds – where each and every second matters. One clean punch, one aggressive combination, one spurt of energy, and Mary would have landed in the quarterfinals of the 51kg category.
The scoreline – 3-2 in Valencia’s favour – was all about what could’ve been had the Argentinian or the Kazakh judge awarded one point to Mary instead of the Colombian. What will also rankle Mary is that she won two out of the three rounds but still lost the bout.
At any rate, the bitter-sweet loss doesn’t take away the sheen from Mary’s six World Championship, five Asian Championship, 2014 Asiad, and 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medals. The Olympic bronze in London still retains its lustre.
“Only admiration and respect for Mary Kom,” the country’s only Olympic individual gold medallist Abhinav Bindra summed it well. “Amazing effort by the living legend. Mary Kom is forever,” Mahesh Bhupathi echoed the thoughts of most Indians.
“I thought I’ll come back with a medal. I can’t believe that I lost the match,” a distraught Mary said, while interacting with the media after the pre-quarterfinal bout.
There are many things that don’t go according to plan all the time – even for the great ones. Don Bradman couldn’t finish with a Test career average of 100 when he was dismissed for zero in his final innings. Andre Agassi lost to Benjamin Becker in the third round of the 2006 US Open as he headed into retirement.
Mary, however, is in no mood to retire.
“I will take a break after coming back (to India), spend time with family. But I am not quitting. If there is any competition, I will continue and try my luck,” she said.
Whatever the future beholds for her, she will always remain India’s Magnificent Mary.