November 8 is a date to be remembered by the people of India – for reasons both good and bad. As the BJP celebrated the ‘anti-black money day’, two stories of hard-fought victories emerge that would certainly have given a fillip to the nation’s spirit.
Saina Nehwal and MC Mary Kom are names in Indian sports that need no introduction. Both of them have earned laurels for India and have inspired an entire generation. Recently, Saina (27) and Mary (34), by winning their respective matches, have helped reinstate the fact that ‘age is just a number’.
‘What keeps people going?’ is a question that has interested philosophers over centuries. Is it the desire to come in the limelight or to earn loads of money? But what about people who have all of that and a lot more? What keeps them motivated?
“I am not finished yet,” was the resounding answer by Chungneijang Hmangte (aka MC Mary Kom), after she defeated Korea’s Kim Hyang Mi 5-0 to clinch her fifth gold in the Asian Women’s Boxing Championships. This ‘never say die’ attitude of hers is what has prevented her from hanging her boots.
Even after being the World Amateur Boxing champion five times, and having a biography and a movie made on her, she hasn’t let the success get to her head.
This time, there was also a tremendous pressure on her to step down and give way to Pinki Jangra in the 51 kg category, especially since she had failed to qualify for the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Despite being the mother of three kids and juggling between Rajya Sabha sessions and rigorous training, she did not buckle under the pressure. Rather, she took it in her stride and proved her mettle yet again through sheer hard work.
“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,” a teary-eyed Mary said after her victory.
Saina Nehwal came out with flying colours to defeat the current world number two PV Sindhu – 21-17, 27-25 – in straight sets to clinch the women’s singles title in the Senior National Badminton championship. With this victory, she has silenced all her critics who had warned that Sindhu had an edge over the 27-year old. Saina not only laid her hands on the national championship for the third time – she also went 2-1 up against Sindhu in national competitions.
The former world number one had been struggling with her fitness in the recent past. Even her Rio Olympics endeavor was plagued by a knee injury. Her premature exit from the Olympics in the second round of the women’s singles came as a setback for her fans. But it was her indomitable spirit that has helped her bounce back.
“I am surprised with the way I played today. I moved well and picked Sindhu’s difficult shots,” said Saina after a hard-fought clash that lasted 54 minutes. Rocket smashes and deft drop-shots were on display as Saina was at her classic best.
When you reach a certain level in sports, the fight with yourself becomes more prominent than anything else. Saina Nehwal and Mary Kom have achieved most of what was there to be achieved. Both of them are Arjuna, Rajeev Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma Bhushan awardees.
Mary Kom is a five-time world boxing champion. She has clinched the Asian Boxing Championship an equal number of times. Saina, on the other hand, has 21 international titles to her name. She is an Olympic bronze medalist and the only Indian female shuttler to hold the world number one ranking.
Mary and Saina have been an inspiration for numerous young people to take up sports. Even ordinary people have lot to learn from both these stalwarts of Indian sports, in terms of their work ethics and approaches towards life. In spite of all their achievements, their perseverance and hunger to keep performing remains intact. Through their untiring efforts, they aspire to achieve more for their country each day.
A version of this post was first published here.