She is over the moon after becoming the first Indian woman boxer to clinch an Olympic medal but bronze is not the colour for MC Mary Kom, who feels she could have finished higher on the podium had it not been for the "confusion" that gripped her during the semifinals.
Mary' as she is called by the International Boxing Association, was the lone Indian in fray when women's boxing made its Olympic debut in the just-concluded London Games.
The five-time world champion ensured a piece of history for herself and the country by fetching a bronze in the flyweight 51kg division. But for someone who is more used to finishing at the top, bronze was less than satisfactory.
"I am very happy to be the first Indian woman boxer to get a bronze medal but I am sad that I could not convert it into gold. I don't know what happened during my semifinal bout. My body was not moving the way I would have liked and I felt as if I could not do anything. I was very much confused," the 29-year-old, who returned to the country to a rousing reception early this morning, told PTI in an interview.
Hundreds of cheering fans welcomed Mary Kom at the airport, breaking into an impromptu jig in which the boxer also participated. She was accompanied by her husband Onler Kom and her mother Akham Kom.
Mary Kom lost 6-11 to England's two-time world champion Nicola Adams in the semifinals and reflecting on the bout, the diminutive Manipuri was at a loss of words to explain what went wrong.
"I never get nervous before bouts but that day I don't know what was happening to me. I can't even explain it. I was not attacking as much and may be it was the crowd also which was cheering Nicola. I generally don't get affected by how the crowd is behaving but probably in the semifinals, it affected me," she recalled.
The Indian conceded that Adams had the bout but was not quite convinced by the scoreline which she felt was narrower than what the record books show.
"I don't think it was that big a margin even though I admit that Nicola won it. At best, it could have been a difference of 2-3 points but certainly not 6-11. Even though my body was not moving that well, I think I hit her hard and I should not have lost by that margin," she insisted.
"I don't think she hit me so many clear punches, hers was a touch-and-go game. I had already fought my toughest bout of the competition in the first round itself," she said.
The mother-of-twins was nevertheless happy that she returned to the country with a medal around her neck.
"I think I have achieved everything that I dreamt of. Of course I wanted a gold medal at the Olympics but I am happy with the bronze too because I am the first Indian woman boxer to get it," she laughed.
However, realisation of all her dreams does not mean that Mary Kom is thinking of hanging up her gloves just yet.
"I am planning to continue till the next Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. I don't know if my body will allow this to happen but if it does, then I would surely try to get a gold there," she said.
Asked to compare her five world titles with the Olympic bronze, Mary Kom emphatically said that nothing can beat the thrill of being there on the podium at the biggest sporting show on earth.
"This Olympic bronze is very, very special for me. Of course the world titles also mean a lot but an Olympic medal is at an altogether different level for every athlete in the world. It is the highest honour," she explained.
"It is a perfect climax to all the hardships that I have gone through during my life. God has been kind to me," said the boxer, reflecting on a 12-year career during which she changed three weight categories since debuting in 45kg.
As for celebrating the historic triumph in London, Mary Kom said once the felicitations and media interactions end, she would hold a quiet thanksgiving prayer at a church in her home state.
"I don't know when I will get the time to celebrate because there is so much media and other commitments. But once I go back home, I would have a thanksgiving prayer before Christmas to celebrate my medal," she said.
On the judging controversies that rocked the men's Olympic bouts, including those involving India, Mary Kom said probably the referees were not experienced enough at the big event.
"I am very much confused because I don't know how the system worked in the men's competition. I think the referees did not have enough experience," she said.
The four-time Asian champion said it would have been a double cause of celebration had her male counterparts also managed a medal.
"I am very disappointed that the men did not get a medal. It is sad because they had worked very hard and after (Vijender Singh's bronze medal in) Beijing, I expected a better performance from them," she said.
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