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OLYMPIC REVIEW45ATHLETE INTERVIEWLondon 2012

Having hosted the Olympic Games in 1908and 1948, London will next year becomethe first city to host the Games for a third time. But that isn't the only reason thatLondon 2012 will be making history. It will also be thefirst Games to feature women's boxing, meaning thatboth men and women will be competing in everyOlympic sport. The historic decision to includewomen's boxing in London 2012 dates back to 13 August 2009, when, following an IOC executiveboard meeting, IOC President Jacques Roggeannounced that the sport would be added to theOlympic programme.The decision was a dream come true for India'sMangte Chungneijang Merykom, otherwise known asMary Kom, who has helped the sport achieve itsOlympic ambition by demonstrating its globalpopularity with her success at the Women's WorldBoxing Championships."At first I could not believe my ears," says the five-time world champion when she thinks back to thatmomentous day in 2009. "But when it was confirmed,I was so happy. I have won everything that could bewon, but it was the Olympic gold medal that stilleluded me. Now it's a dream come true for me to getthe chance to represent my nation at the OlympicGames when I am at the peak of my career."The five consecutive world titles speak volumesabout Kom's grit, hard work and determination. Borninto a family of farmers in a village in Manipur - asmall state in north-eastern India - the 28-year-oldlearned to live with poverty from an early age."We were very poor and I used to help my parentsin the field after coming back from school," sherecalls. "I used to bring firewood from the jungle,which was used for cooking food." Mary was an all-round athlete and excelled in localand school sports events. It was a burning passionand love for sports that pushed her to scale suchheights and achieve what other women would nothave even dreamed of."Yes, I was an all-round athlete; good at almostevery sport, especially football, karate and judo. I tookan active part in school and village sports and wonmany accolades there too. However, I wanted to makeit big and didn't quite know which sport to go for, orhow and where to get enrolled and get started."Finally, in 1998, inspired by the success of DingkoSingh, another boxer from Manipur, who won gold atthat year's Asian Games, Kom secretly began trainingwith a local boxing coach, without the knowledge ofher father. One of her cousins was supportive of herendeavour and she helped her procure second-handboxing gloves from a local market. "With Dingko Singh winning gold in the 1998Asian Games, boxing went through a new wave inManipur," says Kom. "I was one of the manyyoungsters who took to boxing at that time.RightFive-timeworld championMary Kom ishoping to makehistory in Londonnext year bybecoming the first women'sflyweight goldmedallistRightEnnis hasfound herself inthe mediaspotlight sincebecoming worldchampion in 2009Far leftThe 25-year-old wonEuropean gold in2010 and hopesto be celebratingagain in Londonnext summer46OLYMPIC REVIEWon to win 2009 World Championship gold in Berlinjust four months, later and exorcised her demons atGƶtzis the following year with personal bests in shotput and 200m to complete an exceptional comeback. Today, Lewis' 11-year-old British heptathlonrecord hangs by a thread after Ennis recorded apersonal best, just eight points shy, when winningEuropean Championship gold in Barcelona in 2010."It was nice getting so close to the record," sheadmits. "But first and foremost I want to perform well and win medals." With less than a year to go to London 2012,Ennis approaches the Games as one of Great Britain's key medal hopes and the British public arealready backing their 'golden girl' to spearhead theBritish assault. "It obviously brings extra pressure, but I wasn't apart of it at all three years ago, so it's nice to play abig role in 2012 and it's that much more special forme that the Games are here in the UK."The gruelling demands of her event make a yearon the track a very long one, with every eventualitypossible. "The heptathlon is a massive challenge. Youonly get the opportunity to compete in a couple everyyear so it's a rare event, which brings a lot of pressureto those two days. It's all about highs and lows andthe margin for error is so great -I absolutely love it."The mental strength with which Ennis overcomespressure, injury and physical disadvantage propels herto the front of the field and while she admits thatthrowing remains her weakest event, it continues toimprove. Her pace over short distance is world-classin its own right, as proved when she beat Americanworld indoor champion Lolo Jones over 60m hurdles.London 2012HAILMARYAS WOMEN'S BOXING PREPARES TO MAKE ITS OLYMPIC DEBUT INLONDON IN 2012, INDIA'S FLYWEIGHTSTAR MARY KOMIS CONFIDENT OF BECOMING THE SPORT'S FIRSTOLYMPIC GOLD MEDALLISTMary KomATHLETE INTERVIEW