Indian women's boxing champion and Olympic Bronze medal winner Mary Kom, wearing marigold garlands presented by well-wishers, gestures during a reception in New Delhi. Woman boxer Mary Kom was feted as India's latest sporting hero after the mother-of-two won a bronze medal at the London Olympics. AFP PHOTO/RAVEENDRAN
A bronze medal at an Olympics is no mean feat. Add two crucial facts - it came in a brutal combat sport that ended male hegemony at the Games. And she became just the second woman to bring home an Olympic medal to a country where her tribe does not always get a fair deal.
But if you are a five-time world champion boxer used to shinier medals, it is understandable if a bronze feels like job half-done, especially if one of your five-year-old twins, upon your arrival at the international airport, asks you why you could not defeat "that one boxer".
"That I'd bring home a medal was something I was fully confident about," said boxer MC Mary Kom, bronze medallist in the women's flyweight (51kg) category at the recently-concluded London Olympics, during a felicitation function organised by the ministry of tribal affairs here on Tuesday.
"But if I had beaten her, they (her sons) would have been happier."
Asked about the semifinal loss against eventual gold medallist Nicola Adams of Great Britain, Mary said, "I don't know what happened. I was feeling nervous or weird - I can't even explain it."
Nevertheless, the medal was as much a gift to her family as it was to a nation whose population remains vastly disproportionate to its sporting successes.
Mary, however, expressed disappointment at the men returning empty-handed: "I was expecting the men to get two or three, but many decisions went against them. In fact, I was surprised at the number of protests being lodged. Never before in my 12 years of boxing had I seen so many decisions being overturned after the bout had ended!"
Her initial target having been gold, 'Magnificent Mary' has already set her sights on Rio 2016: "If they introduce 48kg (the class in which she won the last of her five world championships), I'll compete in that, else it'll have to be 51kg (like in London)."
Her four-year plan does not bother husband Onler: "If she decides to go for it, she'll have my full support."
Asked about the sacrifices he has had to make over the years, Onler played down suggestions of a cultural divide between the Northeast and the rest of the country. "It's all because of the love that I have for my wife. Culture doesn't make a difference - in any part of India, it's the same."