Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna winner, Mary Kom with her twin sons.
Minimumweight Mangte Chungneijang Merykom (aka Mary Kom or MC Merykom) is from Kangathei Village, Moirang Lamkhai in rural Manipur, India. Her interest in boxing was inspired by the success of Manipuri male boxer Dingko Singh. She took to sports in an effort to provide some financial support to her family. "I was initially an all-round athlete, and 400-m and javelin were my pet events. When Dingko Singh returned from Bangkok (Asian Games) with a gold, I thought I should give it a try. Dingko's success triggered a revolution of sort in Manipur and surprisingly I found that I was not the only girl who was drawn into boxing," she said. In her first AIBA World Women's Boxing Championship in Scranton, USA in 2001, the 18-year-old Merykom had to settle for silver, losing to Hulya Sahin of Turkey by 13-5 in the 48-kg final after defeating Jamie Behl of Canada by 21-9 in the semi-final and Nadia Hockmi of Poland by RSCO-3 in the quarter-final. "She was leading in the first round but her opponent managed to score points in the final round," coach Anoop Kumar said of Merykom's performance in the final. Merykom works out five to six hours a day to stay fit. Coming from a poor family who struggled to educate her siblings, her success as a world champion is a testament to her determination, perseverance and drive to succeed. She has used her earnings from boxing to obtain a new house and land for her parents and savings deposits for her younger siblings but she bemoans the lack of sponsorship for Indian female boxers, saying "I guess that’s because I don’t play tennis or cricket. Seriously, are there no other sports in India?" She has said that she would eventually like to share her boxing experiences while grooming new sports talent in Manipur.