Mary Kom

Mangte Chungneijang Mary Kom, popularly known as MC Mary Kom or by her nickname, ‘Magnificent Mary’, is an Indian boxer who has the distinction of having won eight medals at the

the International Boxing Association (IBA) World Championships. Her medal haul includes six gold medals, four at pinweight and two at light flyweight, a silver medal at light flyweight and a bronze medal at flyweight. No other boxer, male or female, has been so successful. Kom is also a five-time gold medallist, at three different weights, at the Asian Championships, a gold medallist, at flyweight, at the Asian Games and a gold medallist, at light flyweight, at the Commonwealth Games.

At the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, women’s boxing was included in the programme for the first time, but only in flyweight, lightweight and middleweight divisions. By that stage, Kom was well known in the world of amateur boxing, but more so in the light flyweight or pinweight division, so needed to move up to flyweight to compete.

Having made hard work of beating Karolina Michalczuk of Poland 19-14 in the first round, Kom cruised past Maroua Rahali of Tunisia 15-6 in the second to set up a semi-final meeting with Nicola Adams of Great Britain. Kom never really settled against the number two seed, who boxed beautifully, eventually losing 6-11, but nonethless securing the bronze medal. Adams, of course, went on to beat Ren Cancan of China 16-7 in the gold medal match. Kom failed to qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo suffered a unexpected 3-2 defeat at the hands of Ingrit Valencia of Colombia in the second round.

Hope Solo

At the time of writing, former United States Women’s National Team (USWNT) goalkeeper Hope Solo has recently been in the news after requesting that her induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame be postponed until 2023. Solo, 40, was arrested in North Carolina on March 31, 2022, after being found passed out at the wheel of her car with the engine running and her two-year-old twin sons in the back seat. She refused a field sobriety test and was subsequently charged with driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and misdemeanor child abuse. Solo confirmed that she would an alcohol rehabilitation centre, saying, ‘ My energies and focus are totally directed to my health, healing and taking care of my family.’

In happier times, Solo won 2020 USWNT caps between 2000 and 2016, the FIFA Women’s World Cup in 2015 and Olympic gold medals in Beijing in 2008 and London in 2012. However, after the USWNT lost 4-3 on penalties to Sweden in the quarter-finals at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Solo said ‘…we played a bunch of cowards’. Her comments were deemed ‘unacceptable’ and her national team contract was suspended and then terminated altogether, while her National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) club, Seattle Reign, granted her ‘personal leave’ for the rest of the season. Solo never played for club or country again but, while she has repeatedly confirmed that she will never play again, never formally retired. Indeed. At one point she said, ‘I have not retired because, well, I got fired.’

Despite a controversial end to what was, otherwise, a long, illustrious career, Solo is widely regarded as one of the leading female goalkeepers in history. At club level, she played at the highest level domestically in the Women’s United Soccer Association (WUSA), Women’s Professional Soccer (WPS) and NWSL, as well as in the Swedish Premier Division and French First Division.

Simona Halep

Romanian professional tennis player Simona Halep, currently ranked No. 19 in the world, according to the Women’s Tennis Association (WTA), recently made the news after suffering a panic attack during her second round match at the French Open in May, 2022. Halep, 30, led by a set and a break against Chinese youngster Zheng Qinwen, 19, but lost 11 of the last 12 games to crash out 2-6, 6-2, 6-1. Reflecting on her surprise defeat, she said, ‘… I lost it. I couldn’t focus.’

Born in Constanta, in southeastern Romania, on September 27, 1991, Halep turned professional in 2006 and, at the last count, had won 23 WTA singles titles, including the French Open in 2018 and Wimbledon in 2019. In 2013, she won six WTA singles titles, making her the first woman since Steffi Graf, in 1986, to do so, and was named WTA Most Improved Player of the Year. Her WTA year end ranking was 11, but she moved into the top 10 shortly afterwards, where she remained for a phenomenal 373 weeks.

Halep was losing finalist in the women’s singles at the French Open twice, in 2014 and 2017, and at the Australian Open in 2018, before beating American Sloane Stephens 3-6, 6-4, 6-1 to win her maiden Grand Slam title back at Stade Roland Garros in 2018. She was ranked number 1 by the WTA at the end of 2017 and 2018 and, all told, spent 64 weeks at the head of the rankings between 2017 and 2019.

In April, 2022, Halep announced that she would be coached full-time by Patrick Mouratoglou, the long-time coach of Serena Williams. The following month, she also announced that she had parted company with Virginia Ruzici, her manager of 14 years, in favour of Nina Wennerstrom and hersports management agency, Wesport.

Tanni Grey-Thompson

Born in Cardiff on July 26, 1969, Baroness Carys Davina ‘Tanni’ Grey-Thompson was diagnosed with spina bifida – a medical condition that leads to defects in the spinal cord and vertebrae – shortly after birth and has been a wheelchair user since the age of seven. She owes her nickname to her elder sister Sian who, as a two-year-old, called her ‘Tiny’, which soon became ‘Tanni’; the moniker has been with her ever since.

Grey-Thompson was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) for services to disabled sports in the New Year Honours List in 2005. She retired from competition, aged 37, in February, 2007, as the most successful disabled athlete in British history. All told, Grey-Thompson competed at five Paralympic Games between 1988 and 2004, winning 16 medals, including 11 gold medals. She also won 13 medals, including six gold medals, at the World Para Athletics Championships and the Women’s London Wheelchair Marathon six times between 1992 and 2002.

In over 16 years as a wheelchair racer, Grey-Thompson broke a total of 30 world records. At her second Paralympics, in Barcelona in 1992, she won gold medals in the 100 metres, 200 metres, 400 metres and 800 metres and a silver medal in the 4 x 100-metres relay. In so doing, she set world records in the 100 metres and 400 metres and, in the latter event, became the first woman in history to break the 60-second barrier.

A graduate of Loughborough University, Grey-Thompson was created a life peer in March, 2010, and conferred as Baroness Grey-Thompson of Eaglescliffe in the County of Durham. She swore the oath of allegiance to the Crown in English and Welsh before taking her seat in the House of Lords, where she sits as an independent crossbench, or non-party political, peer.

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