Five-time world boxing champion Mary Kom warms up before she practices boxing at her residence in Langol Games village on the outskirts of Imphal. Mother-of-two Mary Kom, otherwise known here as 'Magnificent Mary,' is under all kinds of pressure while aiming, as she is, at winning one of the first Olympic medals ever awarded in women's boxing. AP Photo/Anupam Nath
Not many athletes can claim to be the greatest in just their debut Olympics, but then, not many can be compared to the 'Magnificent M C Mary Kom', a living legend in international boxing much before women got a chance to show their mettle in the quadrennial event.
In fact, the medal that she assured herself today in London by reaching the flyweight semifinals is a tribute to all that the Manipuri has accomplished in a career that has spanned 12 years, most of them at the top.
Her statistics in the ring are astonishing to say the least -- five world and four Asian titles in three different weight categories, besides numerous international medals that she clinched before being catapulted to the status of a living legend by no less than the International Boxing Association.
These figures alone are, however, not the complete story of her greatness.
The 29-year-old 'pint sized dynamo' got her fourth world title, in 2008, within months of a comeback to competitive boxing following a two-year break forced by the birth of her twin sons.
And when she fought for her fourth Asian title this year, one of her sons was undergoing heart surgery in India.
But even that is not a good enough measure of Mary Kom's brilliance considering that her journey started from a remote village in the insurgency-hit state of Manipur where, not so long ago, an economic blockade had crippled normal life.
Her farmer parents describe her as a no-nonsense fiery character who, while growing up, wouldn't think twice before thrashing boys, dare they tease her and perhaps it proved to be her first lessons in landing blows.
For a while she dabbled in athletics before a certain Dingko Singh inspired her towards her true calling in life.