MUMBAI Boxer M.C. Mary Kom could stroll through her hometown unnoticed despite winning five world amateur titles, but all that has changed since the pint-sized puncher won a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.
Indian athletes returned with two silver and four bronze medals from London, the country's biggest Olympic haul and equalling the collective tally of India's previous seven campaigns in the quadrennial sporting event.
Mary Kom said her bronze medal had changed her life.
"I won five world championships but very few people recognised me. Even in my state only people in Imphal (state capital) knew me.
"But now after 11 years even kids know Mary Kom," she told Reuters in an interview on Monday.
"There's a lot of change since the medal. It has been a lot more hectic but I am still enjoying it," she said, adding that she had received messages of support from across Indian society.
Hailing from the insurgency-prone state of Manipur, the mother of two has also captured the imagination of the country's film industry which has started work on a film about her life.
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Amid the adulation, Mary Kom admitted training had taken a backseat.
"I am doing my physical fitness part but I am not doing the full workout," she said, breaking into a laugh.
"So it is not going to be difficult to start full training again from January, after celebrating the New Year."
With amateur boxing's governing body (AIBA) pressing for more weight categories for women in Rio in 2016, Mary Kom, who was the face of the campaign to get her sport into the Olympics, is dreaming of winning the gold that eluded her in London.
"I am hearing that AIBA might introduce three more categories in Rio. If there's a 48 kilogram category I am confident I can bring back gold," she said.
"But even if there's no 48kg category, I will try to change the colour of the medal in the 51kg category."
Mary Kom won her world amateur titles at 46 and 48kg but had to move up to 51kg for the Olympics, which was the lightest of the three weight categories in London.
"My normal weight category is 48kg. So for the 51kg category I had to depend on lots of food and drinks before going in for the weigh-in," she explained.
"But that does not make my strength, my muscles. It's a little bit different. If there's a 48kg category, it's a perfect fit for me."
The boxer was on Monday named as the brand ambassador of India's Super Fight League, a mixed martial arts league launched by Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt and entrepreneur Raj Kundra earlier this year.
(Editing by Peter Rutherford)
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