India’s 'billion dollar baby': Mary Kom punches up Olympic gold frenzy

World champ misses twins’ birthday to capture nation’s fascination with victory

In the blue corner, 'Magnificent' Mary Kom. Also in the blue corner, one billion Indians... and counting.

India beat Sri Lanka in an ODI series in Sri Lanka. Quite easily. And the cricket-mad nation seemed to hardly bat an eyelid (or be bowled over, to stretch a pun).

That is the effect the Londong 2012 Olympics is having on the nation.

As hosts Great Britain celebrated sporting heroes that were not footballers for a change, India celebrated its new billion-backed babies – Saina Nehwal, already a bronze medal winner in badminton and now world boxing champion Mary Kom.

Women boxers brought an end to the last all-male sport at the Olympics when they fought for the first time on Sunday.

And nobody is more fearsome or dangerous in the ring than Mary Kom.

India's five-time world champion Mary Kom, is one of the pioneers of women's boxing, and she welled up with tears of pride and relief when she left the ring on Sunday.

"I have been boxing for 12 years, I have been trying to play in the Olympic Games," she said.

"Today is very emotional, today is my twins' birthday, their fifth birthday, and I can't celebrate their birthday. But I am fighting in the ring and winning, that will be a gift for them."

Kom stormed in to the quarters with a 19-14 victory over Karolina Michalczuk of Poland in the 51kg category.

The 29-year-old Mary is surely a gold medal contender for India.

Click to read: Saina is India’s new darling

While some wept after their fight as they recounted the long battle it took to get to an Olympic Games, American Quanitta Underwood, distraught and stoney-faced after her challenge ended after just eight minutes, was unmoved.

 "History doesn't mean anything to me, the gold medal meant more," Underwood, close to tears, told reporters.

 "I don't think just being part of history enough. I gave away half my life for this and it doesn't feel like the reward of being here is enough."

 "I don't look at this journey and being an Olympian as great. I think bringing back home a medal would have been great. Probably later on I'll say 'hey, I did a good' but I'll always say I could have done more."

Underwood had a tougher journey than most to get to the London Games. Six months ago the 28-year-old pipefitter from Seattle revealed she and her sister had been abused by their father for years as children.

After losing her lightweight first round bout 21-13 to Natasha Jonas of Britain, the five-time US champion said her time in boxing had come to an end.

"I waited until 2012 for the Olympics. In 2008 I said 'hey, I can wait another four years' but it time for me to start a new journey in my life."


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