Exclusive: 'We are all in it together' - Mary Kom opens up on COVID-19 pandemic, Olympic gold dream, life in lockdown and more

WION Web Team New Delhi, Delhi, India Apr 06, 2020, 06.13 PM(IST) Written By: Digvijay Singh Deo

MC Mary Kom in conversation with WION Photograph:( AFP )

Story highlights

Six-time World Boxing champion and the recipient of Padma Vibhushan, MC Mary Kom, in an exclusive interview with WION's Sports Editor, Digvijay Singh Deo, spoke about a lot of things ranging from Olympic qualifiers, training in Italy during COVID-19 outbreak, dream of Olympic gold, how she is spending time in lockdown and much more.

Boxing was one of the first sports to be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Olympic Asian Qualifiers in Wuhan, China was cancelled in the first week of February before rescheduling the qualifiers in Jordan. The entire sporting calendar has been ripped apart by the dreaded virus while restricting all the athletes to train indoors during the country-wide lockdown, which was imposed to curb the spread of the COVID-19. 

Six-time World Boxing champion and the recipient of Padma Vibhushan, MC Mary Kom, in an exclusive interview with WION's Sports Editor, Digvijay Singh Deo, spoke about a lot of things ranging from Olympic qualifiers, training in Italy during COVID-19 outbreak, dream of Olympic gold, how she is spending time in lockdown and much more.


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Digvijay Singh Deo: Mary, this must be a bittersweet moment for you. You won the Olympic quota and then within weeks, the announcement came through that the games were postponed.


MC Mary Kom: The current situation with the spread of the coronavirus pandemic is not just a problem for the athletes, it is a problem for everyone, including the International Olympic Committee and the organisers of the Tokyo Games. Who wants to die? Our health comes first and I feel the right decision has been made by the IOC. No group or individual can be blamed for the current global crisis, we are all in it together. In the current climate, no athlete wants to put their lives at risk and compete at the Olympics. So the right decision was made.


DSD: As professional athletes, one expects you to adapt to the situation but this must feel like a personal blow as well considering that you were in top shape leading up to the Olympics.


Mary: It is a challenge for everyone to work from home, as an athlete you will not be able to train properly due to the lack of facilities at home. But you have to adapt and work with what you have at home and make the best use of this time.


But I have to follow the government's instructions and not go out at this time, because of the grave dangers of the COVID-19 disease. As an athlete, if I contract the virus not only will it be a health concern, I will also lose a lot of time during recovery. So it is best that we stay home and try to make the best use of this situation, which includes spending quality time with your family.


Mary Kom


DSD: I think I must remind our viewers and readers that boxing was the first sport to suffer from the coronavirus pandemic as it was the Olympic Asian qualifiers in Wuhan that were cancelled in the first week of February. How difficult has the uncertainty been Mary especially in terms of rearranging training schedules?


Mary: Somehow, we have to manage in this situation, an athlete needs to adapt. We will work with our coaches and federations. The Olympic qualifiers were moved from Wuhan, which was where the virus originated from, to Jordan. The change in schedule wasn't that challenging for us as we were already prepared for every situation.


So we have already experienced tournaments being postponed. The challenge is maintaining your stamina and physical fitness in these times. The Indian boxers were excellent in the Jordan qualifiers, 5 men and 4 women secured their berth, so they adapted very well to the postponement and hopefully, that will continue in the future.


DSD: You must be reading that Italy is now one of the worst affected countries due to the coronavirus and the Indian team trained there ahead of the rescheduled qualifiers in Amman. What precautions did you all follow when in Italy?


Mary: I have to admit that we were a bit scared when we were in Italy. We were in a town called Assisi, fortunately, when we were there the virus had not reached the area yet. Cases were rapidly rising in northern Italy but things weren't as bad in Assisi. But naturally, we were scared because of the scale of the problem in the country. We were hearing rumours that those athletes who were training in Italy will not be able to participate in the Olympic qualifiers in Jordan.


But I must say the Boxing Federation of India was very proactive in getting us to Jordan as soon as possible. The president, Ajay Singh, and the body did an excellent job in ensuring the safety of the boxers. There was a minor hiccup in our stopover in Frankfurt when we were going to Jordan. Some of the boxers and staff had to stay an extra day, but all that is in the past and the good thing is that all of us are here now in our homes.

Mary Kom


DSD: You are a fighter in every sense of the term. You won the Olympic medal in 2012 when women’s boxing made its debut at the games. You narrowly missed out on qualifying for Rio 2016 and you contemplated retiring. But you never gave up hope of that Olympic gold, made a successful comeback in 2017 at the Asian championships.is this the final battle of an extraordinary career, to keep yourself in top shape till the 2021 Olympics.


Mary: It is a huge challenge for me to stay in shape for the 2021 Olympics.it has been my dream to win a gold medal for the country at the Olympics. I thank the boxing federation of India from the bottom of my heart for their support. This Olympics is extremely important for me; I have all the medals in the world. The only one which is missing is the Olympic gold which I am desperate for. It is not easy for me to train at this age after so many years of competing at the highest level. It does take a toll on you, but I have confidence in my ability as a boxer and believe that I will be able to achieve that goal. I appeal to the people of India to support me in my quest for the gold medal. It is my dream to win the gold for my country and the people. That is my single objective for the 2021 Olympics.


DSD: You are not getting younger and you face younger opponents each time you step into the ring. How do stay a step ahead of these young pretenders? What is the secret to your hunger and performance?


Mary: The secret is training regularly. I train extremely hard for 4-5 days in a week. I don't miss any session and retain 100 per cent focus during training. Maintaining high concentration levels is essential to compete at the highest level at my age of 37. I am an extremely determined individual and God has blessed me with incredible will power. I try to execute my game plan for my next bout in the training sessions so that I am fully prepared for whatever my opponent throws at me. Strategic preparation is the key to success and you cannot ever take your foot off the pedal. I'm fortunate that I am in good shape and able to compete against the youngsters.


Mary Kom


DSD: What is the schedule like at home nowadays, how are you keeping yourself fit during the lockdown?


Mary: Other people might be putting on weight at home, but us athletes have to work out whenever we can. An athlete needs to adapt to whatever the circumstances are and must continue to train. I am fortunate that I have a gym facility set up at home, so I’m using that regularly. I have not missed a single day of training during this time at home. I'm delighted that I have a gym at home, so I don't need to go out during the lockdown for my sessions.so I’m at home, I’m happy and fit.


DSD: Every dark cloud has a silver lining. For you is it getting to spend time with the family without any distractions.


Mary: Yes, my 4 kids ensure that I get extra training sessions while I’m at home. For us it can sometimes get boring as we are following the same routine every day. But it is also important to think about the people who are suffering during the shutdown. The daily wage labourers are finding it extremely hard to maintain their livelihoods and I’m glad that the government is taking steps to ensure that they are not deprived of their basic needs.


I appeal to everyone to support each other, we must follow the government instructions and not go out. If we fail to understand the gravity of the situation, then it will be a major problem, not only for us but also our future generations. So the best step to take to save yourself from getting infected is to stay home. Also for me personally if I get infected with the disease, i don't know if I will be able to make a comeback in my professional career. So I again appeal to everyone to stay home, stay healthy and sleep well. That is the best medical advice I can give you during these times. If we really want to defeat the coronavirus, we have to stay home and follow government instructions, like going out only when it is necessary, washing hands regularly and practice social distancing.