Tokyo: It was an Olympics-sized misunderstanding. After Mary Kom's bout against Colombian opponent Valencia Victoria Ingrit Lorena on Thursday, it took many hours for the Indian boxing legend to even realise that she had actually lost.
In the time between her leaving the boxing ring and coming to the realisation that her Olympic career was over, she had already attended a press conference with Indian journalists in Tokyo. While journalists in attendance got the sense that this was a gracious legend of the sport bowing out from the grandest stage of all, in Mary's mind it was a post-victory presser.
Before her conversation with the media in the mixed zone, Indian women's boxing team's high-performance coach Rafaele Bergamasco spoke briefly to the press, where he told journalists that even if IOC had allowed protests to be registered, he wouldn't advice the boxer to do it, since the margin of her defeat was so narrow. While he did tell journalists that English was not a language he was comfortable with, he was categoric that he thought Mary should have been victorious: his statement indicating that he was at least aware that his Indian boxer had lost.
Realisation only dawned upon Mary when her coach, Chhotelal"who had been accompanying Mary at the mixed zone press conference"tried to comfort the boxer, while she was on the way to give a doping sample.
"Inside the ring I didn't know the decision. I thought he had declared me to be the winner. Even when I came out of the ring, I thought I was the winner. I didn't realise that I had lost," Mary, an Olympic bronze medal winner at London 2012, told journalists in Tokyo later on the phone on Thursday.
"They took me to give a doping sample. Even then I didn't know. Chottelal was with me. He spoke to me and said, 'Mary don't worry, for me you are a winner.' That's when I felt that something was wrong."
That's when she checked her phone and saw a notification for a consolatory tweet from former sports minister Kiren Rijiju. Reality had struck.
" Kiren Rijiju (@KirenRijiju) July 29, 2021
"That was shocking," she said.
There are more than one reasons behind the confusion. COVID-19 measures mean that referees do not raise boxers' hands when the winner's name is announced. The name and the colour of the jersey are still announced though. Somehow, in her adrenaline rush, Mary did not hear this.
The tightness of the contest also was another reason behind the confusion. Mary lost by a 3-2 split verdict by the five judges. However, she mistakenly thought that she had won because she had dominated the last two rounds of the three-round encounter.
The scores given by all five judges in boxing are revealed after every round to"ironically"ensure transparency. This was one of the decisions made by the IOC Boxing Task Force which is managing the boxing competition at the Tokyo Olympics. Incidentally, only in 2019 Mary was named as one of the chosen athletes named in the boxing's athlete ambassadors' group for the Tokyo Olympics along with boxers like Ukrainian legend Vasyl Lamachenko.
As per the IOC Boxing Task Force, how all the five judges scored each boxer is revealed to the world after each of the three rounds. As per this, four judges favoured her Colombian opponent in the first round.
In the next two rounds though, Mary was favoured by three judges each. This meant that while she had dominated two out of three rounds in terms of score, but in terms of final scores of all five judges, three thought that the Colombian was a better overall boxer. Hence, the three-two margin of victory.
"In the first round, I don't know why they gave her a 4-1 verdict. There was no fighting in the first round. There was no clear punch, there were no punches at all. I was winning two rounds and one round only was given to the opponent. The first round was given to my opponent and I won the two rounds. How can she win the match? Two rounds are mine and why should they give it to her? I am very disappointed.
"Everyone has seen the match. I said I am the winner. I don't know what happened. The decisions taken by these people are very sad," she said.
She went on to add that she would take up the matter with IOC "at a later time".
"Now, I don't think it is the right time also. I am not able to control myself after realising I have not won. I am also a member of the task force. I would keep giving suggestions to the members in these meetings, with IOC meetings also. Free fair judges should be there in big games. All the time I have made this point to the committee. I don't know why they've made this kind of an unfair judgement. I will maybe give my resignation and will no longer be part of the task force," she said.
"I will have age. Till 40, I will fight. There will be other competitions like Commonwealth Games and Asian Games. I will fight. Till I have the age, I will fight."