London: India`s MC Mary Kom scripted history by becoming the country`s first woman boxer to win a medal at the Olympics when she finished with a bronze in the 51kg event at the London Olympics 2012 on Wednesday.
Mary Kom, who had been assured of the bronze Monday itself when she reached the semi-finals, could not proceed further, going down fighting in her pre-summit bout against local favourite Nicola Adams.
Losing 6-11, Mary Kom became only the second Indian boxer after Vijender Singh to win an Olympic medal. Vijender got a bronze in Beijing fours years ago.
Buoyed by the presence of British Prime Minister David Cameron and star professional boxer Amir Khan, second-seed Nicola put up a flawless performance.
From the start, Mary Kom struggled to cope up with the Briton`s speed. She came under pressure in the first round, having to fend off Nicola`s powerful punches.
A couple of times the 29-year-old Indian, a mother of twins, was pinned in the corner and took some major blows, losing the first round 1-3.
The second round was closer as both boxers tried to assert their dominance. However, the five-time World Champion found it difficult to get her way around her quick opponent, who narrowly edged the round 2-1.
The Manipuri stuck it out in the third round before losing it by a whisker.
The final round went pretty much in similar fashion as Mary Kom found it hard to cope with Nicola`s superior size. With time running out, the Indian went hell for leather but fell short and lost the round 2-3.
The Indian shared the bronze with US`s Marlen Esparza. Women`s boxing is making its Olympic debut in London. Both semi-finals losers are awarded bronze medals.
A happy Mary Kom said she was satisfied with her effort.
"It has been a tough journey. I carried on with the support of family and friends. I want to continue playing the game. Despite the loss today, I am satisfied with the way I performed."
Mary Kom`s journey to the top of women`s world boxing has been an arduous one. With all she has done for the sport, very few people have acknowledged her feats.
Inspired by famous Manipuri boxer Dingko Singh, an Asian Games gold medallist, Mary Kom gave up books for boxing gloves. But she had to hide her interests from her family. All that changed after her victory in the Manipur state women`s boxing championship in 2000.
If growing up in the strife-torn state of Manipur was hard, the road to the London Games was harder.
In the inaugural 2001 World Championship, she won the silver and her golden run started in 2002. In 2003, Mary Kom was awarded the Arjuna Award.
Mary Kom became a legend in women`s boxing as she bagged a hat-trick of World Championship titles here in 2006. Calls for Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna, the country`s highest sports honour, became louder but Mary Kom was ignored repeatedly.
The Manipuri fighter vented out her anger after she was ignored despite winning the world title for the record fourth consecutive time in 2008.
Finally, she got the Khel Ratna along with Beijing Games bronze medallists Sushil Kumar and Vijender Singh.
Being a police officer in Manipur, she had to do her job, find time and opponents to practice, and then hunt for funds to build up international experience.
After her success, Mary Kom married K. Onler Kom and has twin sons, Rechungvar and Khupneivar. Not only does she have to lend emotional support to her young family but financially she is the main source of income.
Her husband Onler also played a crucial role in her growth and time and again Mary Kom has given him all the credit. He had to stay at home and cater to their twin sons while Mary Kom travelled the world trying to bring laurels.
After a two-year sabbatical that saw her start a family, Mary Kom came back strongly to win the World Championship twice.
After the news of inclusion of women`s boxing in the Olympics for the first time, Mary Kom had to make a huge change, going to 51kg category from the 46kg class, where she has fought for most part of her life.
Meanwhile, Indian boxer Laishram Devendro Singh narrowly missed out on a medal at the London Olympics, putting up a brave fight against Irishman Paddy Barnes in the quarterfinals of the 49 kg category.
Devendro`s 18-23 loss to the Beijing Games bronze medallist ended India`s boxing campaign in the mega event.
It was a ferocious start to the bout with both boxers trading punches. The boxing on display enthralled the crowd. Barnes got off the block quickly connecting with a great combination.
Devendro though stood his ground and connected with some of his own stinging blows but he narrowly went down 5-7 in the first round.
The second round started in similar fashion with a flurry of punches from both fighters. There was no respite for either of them.
The turning point for the 20-year-old Indian came in the middle of the second round as he was a given a warning, a two-point penalty, for using his head to push his opponent back.
The penalty swayed the result in the Irisihman`s favour as he took the round 10-5.
Seven points down Devendro came out swinging but left himself open to Barnes attacks. The Irishman, who won gold at the Commonwealth in Delhi, employed clever and defensive tactics, holding the Indian whenever he got close.
He was finally pulled up for his actions as the referee warned him as well, docking two points. The decision gave Devendro a sniff of a chance but a right hook towards the end of the bout sent him reeling and took the stuffing out of him.
Just as the Indian seemed to shake off the punch the bell rang to signal the end of the bout. The Indian took the final round 8-6 but that didn`t prove to be enough.
Apart from Mary Kom`s bronze, there was another piece of good news for India from the showpiece track and field. Middle-distance runner Tintu Luka qualified for the semi-final of the women`s 800 metres.
Tintu, who is coached by the legendary P T Usha, finished third in the second heat with a timing of 2:01.75 seconds. It was below her personal best of 1:59.17 secs achieved two years back.