Keeping a 37-year-old MC Mary Kom motivated in the times of lockdown is hardly a challenge for her coach, who believes that the Indian boxing legend works harder than most.
Coach Chhote Lal Yadav has been making an online schedule to keep the women boxers confined in their homes on their toes, but the Indian veteran has stood out from the bunch.
“I have to monitor each session for the young girls. But it is different for Mary. I just have to give her the plan and she takes care of it," Chhote Lal Yadav, who has been Mary Kom’s coach for the last four years, told the Times of India.
"She may be the oldest, but she is still the most dedicated boxer we have.
“And it is not just about dedication, Mary is faster than even the teenagers we have in the team," Yadav observed.
Art of defying age
MC Mary Kom qualified for her last ever Olympics in March earlier this year when she upstaged Philippines’ Irish Magno with a unanimous decision in the quarter-finals of the Asian qualifiers.
However, the Olympics got postponed by a year soon after making things tricky for the Manipuri pugilist, who will now be 38 when she steps on the Olympic stage after nine years since her bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.
But her coach believes that age will hardly be an issue for the exceptionally intelligent athlete.
"Age has nothing to do with Mary's chances at Tokyo. You don't get to see athletes like her every day,” he said.
He was quoted by ESPN website saying, “As you get older you have to box more intelligently. For the last few years, we have only been working on getting as technically sharp as possible."
Tears, muted celebrations a sign of dedication
A six-time World Champion and five-time Asian Champion, among several other feats, MC Mary Kom has never rested on her laurels or got affected by her disappointments.
And coach Yadav, who has been with Mary Kom since 2015, believes that her constant quest for self-improvement is what has kept her in the top leagues even now.
"I remember, in 2016, Mary lost in the semi-finals of the Rio qualifying meet in China. She cried a lot after the bout,” he recalled. “The way she cried, I was sure that Mary would leave boxing after that.
“But next morning at six, she knocked at my door and called me for training,” he added.
The reaction wasn’t very different when Mary Kom led India’s boxing contingent to their finest Commonwealth Games campaign in 2018, where she had won the gold medal in the 48kg category.
"Other athletes celebrate their big wins by taking a break for some days.”
“But having known her by now, I was ready at 6 am the next morning and there she was, ready to train as usual," Yadav said.