Mary Kom, surely you did not deserve this!
Her very name conjures up visions of a gritty sportswoman who has defied the odds in every sphere and made success a certainty in almost each test she had faced. Yes, Mary Kom has been nothing else. Google her name and instantly results pour out like a flood on what she has been to women's boxing.
Her's has been a unique story written time and time again and yet it would seem there is more. Only, what has now come up as something new has not been exactly complimentary to her exalted image. That is the irony for despite her legendary image Mary has proved that in the end she is also a human, one capable of making mistakes and face moments of embarrassment, something that is not usually associated with her.
So it has been for this great Manipuri for the first time as she comes into the news for all the wrong reasons. It is not anybody's case that she is the best in her field, the 51 kg category a progress from her 48 kg section where she had won much of her laurels including the six world championship titles.
But does that best tag give her the feel of being invincible or immune to fresh challenges, is the question that critics have rightly thrown at her after news came that she had been shockingly given exemption from trials and selected to participate in the world championship scheduled in Russia in October.
Granted she has been working hard and that at 36 years plus, Mary has not considered age to be against her. Her goal is a gold in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics after the bronze she had won in the 2012 Games in London.
All that is fine but does that allow her the freedom to get away from rules or did the Boxing Federation of India itself bend the rule to accommodate her wish based on her Coach Chotelal Yadav's recommendation to the BFI that she had been consistently doing well and so and can be exempted? As though to cover up a wrong step, another boxer Lovlina Borgohain was also given a similar exemption in the 69 kg category!
Talk of Coach Chotelal and it is just as well that Mary did not get locked in another controversy that loomed over after it came known that she was in the Committee which was to decide on the Dhronacharya Award. Chotelal was an aspirant but Mary recused herself from the Committee and saved herself of what would have been another round of embarrassment. But by then she had already blotted her image a trifle.
Mary was in line to take on in the trials the wonderfully talented Nikhat Zareen, a former junior world champion and bronze medallist in the 2016 world championship. In fact Mary had a tough time against Nikhat in the India Open held in May and barely managed to beat the young talent enroute to the final. Mary won that event but Nikhat's abilities came as a revelation.
As per news in the media, the trials in the 51 kg category were totally cancelled at the last minute leaving Nikhat high and dry. She had travelled all the way from Hyderabad just for this and the reason given was that the BFI wanted to 'protect' this young talent.
For one who had won a medal in a world championship earlier this seemed a strange logic and besides how was she suddenly young now? Nikhat had a point there but where does she look for a fair trial to earn justice is her worry when the BFI had made its decision clear.
It is doubtful if there has been any instance of the nature Mary has go into. Class they say is permanent but form often vary and that is why trials come in to ensure the contestant's readiness for the big test. Nobody escapes this, at least that is what history tells.
A legend like the American giant Carl Lewis, who had made his admirers struggle for words to describe him, too had to take the trials and what is more the great man had failed in that in the run up to the 1992 Barcelona Games.
Lewis' class was unmatched but the trials reflected something wrong in his form and he could get into the American team not for the sprints (100m and 200m) but only long jump and relay. Knowing his abilities experts believed the man had been denied his golds but there it is, rules are rules.
Swimming legend Michael Phelps had been subjected to trials. Closer home, Abhinav Bindra, India's lone Olympic gold medallist had to undergo trials and Gagan Narang, Olympic bronze medallist too. So where is the fuss then is the big question.
What is unfortunate is that the sport's federation should be a party to this state of affairs when strictness or better still, justice should come from it. The BFI by its action may have exposed itself and what is more it has set a precedent which is akin to opening a Pandora's box.
Anything could happen in the future and what will be the remedy that BFI would have then. Not easy, for the Federation has set an example which is anything but good for not just boxing but maybe sports in general.
Equally unfortunate is Mary's position. For someone who had come up in life in the most difficult of environment, with a touch of sincerity and hard work, this was the last thing she would have bargained for. Her fame and her ability to fight odds, her grit and glory had even inspired a biopic on her.
Why, the nation had also given substance to her achievements by making her a member of the Parliament. Did she deserve this dark chapter to be added to her glorious career history? Life's journey can be so unpredictable!