London: As M C Mary Kom readies for her semi-final bout against Great Britain's Nicola Adams, her coach Charles Atkinson says his ward is under no pressure from the partisan home crowd. Rather, this might be to her advantage he believes.
Crowds at the boxing arena here have been raucous, and as has been evidenced everywhere else too, solidly behind every athlete from Great Britain which has unsettled opponents from other countries as they themselves have confessed.
But Atkinson believes that in some cases, this can prove to the contrary and is confident that Mary— who has otherwise won favour with the audience here— will be able to weather the challenge from Adams in the ring and her supporters outside.
"Mary wouldn’t have reached this far in life if she would let pressure get the better of her. Adversity gets the best out of her," he said on the eve of the bout which has not only fired the imagination of all people back home, but has also caught the fancy of experts and aficionados here.
"She has really struggled hard for 12 years and more and on several fronts," said Atkinson, "so she is not going to let something like crowd support for the opponent affect her. She is single-minded, extremely determined and really thrives under pressure."
Atkinson is not allowed to be in the olympic village with the athletes— or to be in Mary's corner during bouts— because he is a professional coach, but he has constantly been in touch during the Games. Till she came here for her first bout, Mary was training with him in Liverpool.
A bronze medal in the 51 kg event is assured, but Mary is aiming for a more precious medal, as she disclosed after her victory over Tunisian Rahali Maroua in the quarter-finals. "I am aiming to win gold," she said without any false modesty.
The five time world champion, who has had to compete in a higher weight category from her normal because the 48 kg category is not an Olympic discipline, has earned the admiration and awe of the world with her exploits.
The number of journalists covering her have increased with each passing bout, and in the mixed zone, where athletes interact with the media, the number of foreign correspondents jostling for quote is now matching that from India.
Mary herself has remained free of the hyperbole surrounding her. "I am here to perform well for the country. I am fit, and determined and am praying to God that he helps me achieve this."
One reckons that a billion and more people will join her in this prayer.