Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam), Nov 8:
Indian boxing stalwart M C Mary Kom (48kg) clinched an unprecedented fifth gold medal but Sonia Lather (57kg) settled for silver at the Asian Championships, here today.
Up against North Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi, the five-time world champion and Olympic bronze-medallist Mary Kom prevailed in a unanimous 5-0 verdict to add another accolade to her already crowded cabinet.
However, world championship silver-medallist, Sonia, had to be content with a runners-up finish for the second time at this event after she went down in a split verdict to China’s Yin Junhua in the final.
India thus signed off with a gold, a silver and five bronze medals at the continental showpiece.
This was Mary Kom’s first international gold medal since the 2014 Asian Games and her first medal in over a year.
With today’s gold, she kept her excellent record at this event intact, having made the final in all of her six appearances with only one ending in a silver. Mary Kom’s previous gold medals at this meet had come in 2003, 2005, 2010 and 2012.
“I am really happy the way this Championship has panned out. I would like to dedicate this victory to all those who have supported me even though the world had written me off. I would like to thank my coaching staff who worked hard with me over the last few months,” Mary Kom said after the triumph.
In Hyang Mi, the 35-year-old Manipuri found her most aggressive opponent so far in the tournament but she was up for the task.
Unlike her previous bouts, in which the opening three minutes were invariably spent measuring up the rival, both the boxers were lunging at each other within seconds of the bell going off.
Matched quite evenly in speed and precision, Mary Kom scored for her ringcraft, which included some fine footwork to outpace Hyang Mi at crucial junctures.
There was hardly any power-hitting on display but the contest was made engaging by the boxers’ fast-paced exchange of punches.
The North Korean was relentless with her left hooks but the Manipuri did not allow herself to be rattled and scored on counter-attack with her combination blows.
Sonia also fought a draining bout and was at par with her rival in power, precision and pace.
However, Junhua seemed more in control in counter-attacks and managed to strike some neat right straights in what was essentially a messy contest, involving quite a bit of clinching.
Boxing Federation of India President Ajay Singh congratulated the Indian team for the its performance, lauding Mary Kom in particular.
“Mary Kom’s gold at the Asian Boxing Championship is a huge victory for India’s woman power. This mother of three has shown that with grit and determination you can overcome seemingly insurmountable odds,” he said.
“I congratulate the entire Indian team for their performance in the Championship. This is a testament to all the hard work that the boxers and coaches are putting in to ensure that India becomes a boxing power in the near future,” he added.
India had won six medals at the previous edition of championship in 2015 but that had not included a gold. (PTI)